2009 Beatbox Convention Review

Words by David Barros of Too Much Flavour

Easter weekend in London and Boxcon09 began outdoors with typically overcast British weather conditions, but that didn't stop beatboxers from all over the world gathering in the city to take part in the very public opening to the international event.

For the first time in Boxcon's history, the one they call "Archangel," Owner of Humanbeatbox.com spent his time planning a guerrilla flash jam operation on eight London tourist spots. The idea took the model for a "flash mob" and added beatboxers to the formula as participants. A flash mob is where an event is planned by a small group of people to occur at a set time in a set place before breaking up and disappearing, much to the suprise of the unsuspecting public.

I had never done a flash jam before, let alone seen one take place (watching the T-Mobile advert on TV doesn't count), so it was exciting seeing how the different audiences were going to react.

The first flash jam took place with just a handful of beatboxers at Carnaby Street before moving on to a very packed Piccadilly Circus. Unforseen at the time of planning the jams, there was also a political rally taking place in the same area! Somehow the jam was still audible from upon the statue in the middle of the roundabout.

With the rallies affecting the flow of traffic around the city, news helicopters were flying above adding to the noise on the ground, so fortunately the next meeting point was Leicester Square, situated away from any main roads. As the mob began to pick up numbers, we tried to blend in as best as we could by spreading apart and taking different roads to the next locations, or posing for photos as though we were tourists.

When the jam kicked off in the centre of Leicester Square, someone had the right idea - as I recollect, a father with his daughter in his arms came over to join in too! Whether he was a beatboxer or not, I don't know, I'd never met anyone before the jams, and nor did I see that father again later!

As Covent Garden is famous for its street shows, you might think a flash mob wouldn't draw much attention, having to compete with the buskers, jugglers and men that pose as statues, but that wasn't so. By now the mob had expanded to a small entourage. In all the excitement of so many beatboxers reuniting, the jam started spontaneously before I had my camera rolling. Meanwhile, the mob was substantial enough to start catching bemused looks from tourists gathering around expecting to see a magic show!

The weather never looked promising, and on the way to Trafalgar Square my butts parted, yet still beatboxers took the opportunity to scale the lions under Nelson's Column. The jam took place on the pedestal beneath the column, giving it the best elevation and the opportunity to fly the Humanbeatbox.com logo. The security didn't look too happy about using the site for commercial advertising, but mob rules!

With the Union Jack flying above Buckingham Palace, we stood under the Queen Victoria statue in front of the gates. We had been walking around London for over two hours now, and the group were showing signs of agitation, hunger, or in someone's case, the need for the loo! Ram-Z took the opportunity to take charge and organised and orchestrated a right royal symphony jam where everyone played a role in making it sound as dope as it did.

Due to the protest marches we encountered at Piccadilly Circus, there was increased security around the Houses of Parliament, so it was decided best to move it along. Instead, the jam took place in the subway underneath Westminster Bridge, which was had less background noise and gave some really good acoustics.

The final jam was along the south bank of the Thames at the base of the London Eye. The special guest act for Sunday's showcase, Humanism, from Japan, had touched down in London and blessed us with their unique presence.

With the jams finished, it had been a long day, so it finished with a meet'n'greet party in the White Room, Royal Festival Hall. With an open mic session as the musical accompaniment, beatboxers enjoyed refreshments and the opportunity to catch up with each other before heading back to their hostels in preparation for the next day...

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