From its birth in the United States to a rebellious adolescence spent backpacking around Europe, beatboxing is coming home to American shores.
At its most basic level, beatboxing is nothing more than making rhythmic percussion sounds using your mouth as the instrument. But from that base, incredible levels of complexity are built.
Anthony Carreira, a 23-year-old from Dover Township, has a talent for breaking it down and a hope to spread the love of beatboxing to new heights. Now performing as Tony C, the young drummer wasn't quite a teenager yet when he discovered the lure of beatboxing.
"I downloaded some music and came across The Fat Boys, a hip-hop group from the '80s," he says. "I started mimicking the sounds without really knowing what beatboxing was."
New sound: It wasn't long before Carreira discovered that the art form that had started in the 1980s with American hip-hop was alive and kicking in new directions in Europe.
"They have their influence of electronic sounds, synth noises, drum and bass, dubstep" and other elements, he says. "I got mesmerized by it and figured I could do that too."
Not only could he do it; he could do it well. It's a skill he insists anyone can pick up.
"A lot of it is muscle memory ... to be able to do the sounds repetitiously and in certain patterns," he says. "The biggest thing I tell people is you have to be open to explore and make silly and fun and crazy sounds until you get to the point where you make it rhythmic."
Starting out: A newcomer can start with the phrase "boots and cats," emphasizing the sounds of the "b" like a bass drum, the "t" like a high hat and the "k" snap of the hard "c" as a snare drum.
"What 'boots and cats' does is give you a tempo and rhythm," Carreira says. Repeating the phrase and reducing the sound of the remaining letters gradually develops into basic beatboxing.
"It's a language of its own," he says. "It bonds the guys from all over the world."
Here in the U.S., Carreira and a friend from Ohio who performs as Lethal FX are in their second year of organizing the Midwest Beatbox Battle. The event in October in Ohio will pit top beatboxers from around the country against each other.
"It's an intimate environment, two beatboxers battling back and forth," Carreira says. "There are a lot of beatboxers in America, but they're all spread out. ... Over in Europe, they have national championships, a world championship."
Progression: Carreira is in the thick of the art form's evolution, from performing solo beatbox routines to beatboxing with bands like Blind Ellis, in which he's the drummer.
"The solo show is more about putting on a show, having more impressive beats and sounds," he says. "With a band, it's being the rhythm, trying not to grab their attention as much."
Beatboxing has grown in recent years, making a comeback at home after years of development abroad thanks to the magic of YouTube. Carreira couldn't be happier.
"I feel it's right at that peak where it's going to bust through," he says.
Beatboxing fans can see Tony C perform at 10 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at Beer Mongers bar, 3000 S. Queen St., York Township.
-- Reach Mel Barber at email@example.com.