‘Beatbox’, ‘Human Beatbox’, or ‘beat box’ are commonly used world wide. However, it is very interesting to see that, in Chinese speaking regions such as Mainland China, Taiwan, Hongkong and Macau, the term has been variated to ‘bbox’ or ‘b-box’ on many occasions, in TV shows, radio, newspaper and Internet.
As the statistics shown in the graphics above (via index.baidu.com), ‘bbox’ and ‘b-box’ are more recognized ways of spelling than ‘beatbox’ on the Chinese web, at least on Baidu, the absolute dominant search engine on Chinese Internet, the market share of which takes up to 60% of the Chinese net.
In the language of modern Mandarin, plosive consonants do not exist in the ending of a word, which results in the weakening of the -t consonant. As more and more people saying ‘beatbox’ without -t, the term finally becomes b-box, or bbox; the original idea of ‘human beatbox’ is lost in the term as a result. Be it a misspelling, it shows how the term beatbox has blended in the Chinese community and being localized.
In the following discussion, I will focus on how beatboxing finds its way fitting in the Chinese culture, and how beatboxing itself is represented in the culture as an art, novelty and commodity.
From Ghetto to the Oriental
If we are to talk about beatboxing, we will have to talk about the hip-hop culture, where beatboxing originates from. Started in the early 1970s in African American ghettos, hip-hop has made its way into almost every corner in the world. Riding the wave of globalisation hip-hop has been integrated into the culture of each region, carrying with it, modified cultural meanings for different peoples. In its birth place of New York, USA, hip-hop is an expression of people’s own race, ethics, authenticity, culture, identity, sexuality and politics. Rapping, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti, the four elements of hip hop, are expressed in four distinctive ways - oral, aural, physical and visual - which combine to solidify a cultural lifestyle. And this lifestyle, originally expressed by African-Americans, has been adopted by people from across the globe.
In Japan, hip-hop has been greatly embraced by the Japanese culture and thoroughly commercialized and modified for its own market and culture. It is not surprising that Japan boasts some of the best beatboxers in Asia. Japanese beatboxers constantly appear in world top level stages (妖怪うらに洗い, Youkai Uraniarai, Third Beatbox Battle World Championship, 2012; Sh0h, Grand Beatbox Battle, Emperor of Mic, 2013; FOLK:LORE (team) and Humanism (team), third Beatbox Battle World Championship, 2012) and popular YouTube clips (Daichi with over 351,000 subscribers; Hikakin, 1,245,274 , whose channel also claimed as the ‘Biggest Beatbox Channel in the World’, updated to 15, April, 2014)
In Hong Kong, beatboxing has been quickly accepted by the mass media and audience as TV shows, movies and live shows frequently feature local pioneering beatboxers like 蘇子麟 (So Tsz Lun, also known as Heartgrey) and 黃浩邦 (Wong Ho Pong, also known as RX). Started from a YouTube debut video (“Beatboxer HeartGrey from Hong Kong 2008”, viewed 2,735,053 times to date), So Tsu Lun has been actively involved in world class competitions, Hong Kong movie (The Way We Dance, 2013) and numerous TV shows, and recognized as the Chinese beatbox representative and the first Chinese beatboxer known to the world beatbox scene.
In Macao, beatboxing was not introduced to the local TV until 2007, when a foreign hip hop dance crew visited Macao. However, the first beatboxer in Macao, Taiko Hou, had been beatboxing since 30th December, 2006. Along with Borris and MacauFong Ng, Taiko Hou formed the first and only beatbox crew, 'Macao Human Beatbox (MBT)' in Macau in 2009. Actively being involved and pushing the culture forward in the local scene, MBT made their public media debut in 2013 on local radio station Teledifusão de Macao, commonly known as TDM.
Meanwhile in Taiwan, beatboxing has been popular with a mass audience since 2006, as a few beatbox pioneers such as Li Chang-jun, also known as ABC, Wei Wei, also known as Double, and Qians Brothers (錢氏兄弟), were featured on the most popular TV variety shows in that time. (Zong Yi Da Ge Da, 2006; Wo Cai Wo Cai Wo Cai Cai Cai, 2007). In the following 8 years, beatboxing has been frequently brought up to the TV reality show stage as more beatboxers join the scene. It is also worth mentioning that local talent Jimix from Mouzik, a beatbox trio, won a wildcard (passcard) for the Grand Beatbox Battle 2014 in Basel via online voting. It is one of the most authentic international beatbox competitions that gains a huge audience from viewers all over the world.
In Mainland China, beatboxing has been in the public eye since 2005. Kui Jung from Yanbian, Yanji Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, uploaded some of his early beatbox solos on the Internet recorded via webcam. As online streaming video sites few in number and popularity in China, Kui Jung’s beatbox videos, including solos and tutorials, gained mega amounts of Internet views and clicks. It was not long before beatboxing was introduced to the mass media, as Kui Jung made his TV debut in the Spring Festival Gala of Yanbian TV in 2005, which was also the first real beatbox performance in Mainland China’s TV history. This was confirmed by Kui Jung in an informal conversation between him and the author. The first beatbox showcase in satellite (provincial) TV that can be traced, however, is most possibly the one broadcast in 25, July, 2007, on Qinghai TV, by Beijing-based beatboxer 博子(Bozi). However, some of the first satellite TV shows featuring beatboxing that helped spread the culture in China, were the ones aired by Hunan TV on 27th February and 12th June, 2009. On 27th February 2009, the show Tian Tian Xiang Shang, or 'Day Day Up' in English, the best rating Chinese TV programme in 2009, invited Lan Bo’s dance crew, including Wie Wie the beatboxer to perform. On 12th June 2009, Kui Jung, Bozi, Anke, Wie Wie and Pony were introduced as ‘全国b-box高手’(national beatbox masters) in a single episode. For the first time ever, beatboxing was introduced to the Chinese audience on a top-rated TV programme.