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Muddy meets: Shlomo, beatboxer

He's worked with Ed Sheeran, Lily Allen, and Rudimental, and now record-breaking beatboxer Shlomo has a new project on his hands - raising money for the NHS in association with theatres like Warwick's Playbox. Tell us about it, Shlo!

What do you do when your nationwide beatboxing tour gets cancelled because of lockdown? Turn it into an online fundraising show for the NHS Charities with your rolodex of star-studded friends, obv. We gave Bourne End boy Shlomo (Shlo to his mates) a call to find out about his heartfelt lockdown project..

Shlomo's Beatbox Adventure
Image credit: Tom Leighton

First off, how are you coping in lockdown?

Actual lockdown isn’t too bad – my two kids are making me laugh, they’re total banter machines. They’ve come up with a Parent of the Week scheme, which basically means whoever gives them the most Nintendo time gets to be Parent of the Week. It seems to change every half an hour though!

Parts have really been hard, though. I’ve had some losses, and we’ve had friends who have recently been diagnosed. That’s why it’s been so important to have a creative outlet like this show to help process everything.

Give us the lowdown on Homeskool Beatbox Adventures – from touring show to online event…

It’s been really validating. The original show, Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids, was something I put together when I first had kids so it had been going for some time. It was a really big success, which I didn’t expect – it sold out twice at Royal Albert Hall, and showed at Edinburgh Festival – and I had almost 100 shows planned for the tour this year. Obviously, due to lockdown that didn’t happen, so I thought, ‘what else can I do with this?’

I knew a lot of people were feeling really frustrated and helpless, so I decided to try and turn the show into something that could not only help people have fun, but also raise some money.

Was turning the show into a fundraiser a no-brainer?

I was never going to ask people to pay me for the online show – it just didn’t seem in the spirit of things – but I was actually really inspired by Captain Tom and his story. It’s amazing! I wanted to do something to help, but I couldn’t work out where the money should go, and then I saw that and thought, ‘NHS Charities is perfect.’ On top of everything the NHS are doing, this can help support staff, and patients and their families.

The line-up for Homeskool Beatbox Adventures is incredible! How did you rope in such great names?

I just scrolled through my phone! I thought, ‘Which friends would be up for this, and who would the kids be inspired by?’ I pinged out a few messages, and a lot of people were free (obviously) and wanted to help.

You opened the show with KT Tunstall – I didn’t know she could beatbox!

I’ve got a story about that – I was supporting her on tour, and after my bit she went on. I was in the bathroom, and I could hear something going on, so I eventually rushed out and people were saying, ‘Where were you?! She just shouted you out and did a beatbox for you!’ and I’d missed it! I think she’s forgiven me.

What about organising the practical side of things? The show is more advanced than your standard Zoom meeting!

I put a call out on social media for help when I first had the idea to take it online, and I was overwhelmed by people who wanted to volunteer. We’ve got a team of 12 now – graphic designers, video editors, producers, publicists, who are all helping me make something with real production value, rather than just me with a web cam! I feel really supported by them, and a lot of them haven’t even met each other – or me.

How did you first get into beatboxing?

Image credit: Nathan Gallagher

I started doing it as a kid. My parents bought me a drum kit for my 8th birthday, and then two days later they took it away and told me I couldn’t practise anymore – I had to find ways to practice without shaking the whole house! That’s when I started jamming with my voice. I didn’t think anything of it until I was a teenager, and I realised it would a) impress my friends and b) get us free chips.

I left home at 18 and joined a band who were touring, and that very quickly blew up so I was playing big stages when I was super young, and then I got a phone call from Björk.

As you do!

Yeah, as you do! She wanted to collaborate, and off the back of that I decided to go solo and do my own thing. It was an absolute whirlwind.

Do your kids think you’re cool?

Half the time, like when I’m on TV, they’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s my dad!’ – but other times they’re like, ‘Ugh’. My five-year-old just thinks that’s normal. If you ask him what we wants to do when he’s older, he’ll say, ‘Oh I’ll just do some gigs, play a few festivals.’

Speaking of festivals, you’ve played Glastonbury a LOT – what are you going to do this summer now it’s been cancelled?

Be super sad. We had a festival in the back garden for the four of us over the bank holiday, which the kids came up with. They called it ‘Pantsfest’, because you had to wear just your pants, and they’d made a poster with a logo and a whole line-up. A lot of it didn’t materialise actually, because it said there was a yoga area and a wellness area, and a taco stand. If I’d had paid for a ticket I wouldn’t have been pleased.

What would you usually have on your backstage rider?

I always get teased that my rider’s not very diva, because I quit drinking a long time ago and I try and eat healthily, so it’s usually peppermint tea and healthy snacks.

You’re a two-time Guinness World Record holder for World’s Largest Beatbox Ensemble – where are the certificates? Have you hung them in the downstairs loo?

You know, I actually don’t know where they are! When we moved, they got put in a box and never made it back out. They should be pride of place really.

Finally, what would you be if you weren’t a beatboxer?

If it’s allowed to still be music, then a DJ. I’m obsessed with it at the moment – I’m always telling people to find their creative outlet, something they’ll do day and night without worrying whether it’s good or not, and that’s me with DJing. My partner’s like, ‘Are you coming to bed now?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah yeah, just let me finish this mix!’

If it wasn’t allowed to be music, I’d definitely do something educational, or with young people, that would help them. I just love bringing people together.

Shlomo’s Homeskool Beatbox Adventures is live on Facebook and YouTube every Thursday at 2pm in association with theatres such as Playbox Theatre, Warwick. Donate to the fundraiser here.

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