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In the shadow of looming skyscrapers, the urban streets of Brazil’s largest city, São Paulo is a melting-pot of cultures. With 30% of the population describing themselves as Pardo (multi-racial) and with white, black and Asian influences, the city boils over with creative self-expression. Everywhere you look there is art, music, food and dancing. It spills out onto the streets and merges together to create a beautiful, harmonious cacophony. And as beatboxing originated on the streets, if you watch and listen for beatboxing in São Paulo then you will surely find it. Welcome to Batalha das Goelas (Battle of the Throats).
Alex Kim and Beatbox Brasil
The story begins with Alex Kim (aka AK Beats), a 24 year old native São Paulo and a beatboxer who is so in love with the art form he can name the very day he began beatboxing; February 28th 2007. Between 2008 and 2009 he made several TV appearances and afterwards began to invite people to beatbox jams. This collective grew into a movement which dubbed itself Beatbox Brasil. This community made its home in social media, and from this virtual fixed address it could organise events both in São Paulo and across Brazil. Since 2011 São Paulo has become the epicentre for an enormous explosion in beatboxing. The tremors are reaching other cities and towns where new beatbox communities are being formed and events and jams are taking place.
Batalha das Goelas
Back on the streets of São Paulo, Batalha das Goelas is underway. Battle of the Throats is a multi-stage street beatbox battle where competitors need to both impress not just each other but a public crowd of onlookers who get to cast the vote. You might think it strange that beatboxers would put themselves at the mercy of the general public, but taking beatboxing to the streets is part of Beatbox Brasil’s mission to introduce and engage new people to the art form. And it works.
Beatboxing in a street battle is very different to beatboxing in a club or venue. For starters, without a sound engineer and an acoustically designed space, the beats are raw and exposed. There is no hiding behind technology. Secondly, you can’t stand there in your hoody and make confusing beatbox patterns and noises. The general public don’t care how fast or crazy or difficult your sounds are. You need to make music and it needs to be something people will want to listen to. Yet, at the same time you need to realise that it’s not a performance but a battle - listening and reacting to your competitor. Street battles are not for the feint-hearted.
Battle of the Throats is in its second year. The beatboxers are evolving, partnerships are being formed, and the crowds are growing. Some beatboxers battle in every stage of the competition trying to win a place in the final. So what does it take to organise a street battle? Here are Alex Kim’s top tips:
- Vision. Have a vision and concept for the event and then make sure everything you do fits the vision - location, time of day, layout, host, and so on. For example, part of the vision of Battle of the Throats is to engage new people in the art form and also to communicate that battles are not about war but about engaging in a fun and friendly event.
- Branding. Make sure you have strong artwork and a good name - something people can relate to and follow. The branding for Batalha das Goelas is bold and fun - commissioned from the talented Brazilian artist Thiago from “Daze Factory”.
- Learn. Study other championships and chat with the organisers. Find out how they do things and what lessons they have learned.
- Start Small. If you’re starting out, try organising some unofficial battles. You can then learn what works and doesn’t work before embarking on a battle series.
- Marketing. You need to market the event well across the different social networks so the beatboxers and audience can plan and be there on the day.
- Host. You need a host that can entertain and project his or her voice. Someone who knows how to deal with both the contestants and general the public.
- Expectations. Be realistic and patient. All regular events take time to grow and develop. Don’t be discouraged if only a handful of people turn up to the first event!
- Enjoy. The most important thing is for you, the beatboxers and the crowd to have a great time.
Batalha das Goelas is growing year on year and next year Alex Kim hopes to make it even bigger with stages perhaps taking place not just in São Paulo but across Brasil. Alex says, “With persistence and patience you have the power to make your dreams into realities. If you want it and you work hard for it then you can make it happen.” Amen to that!