RIFF Movies Archive

Beatboxing - The Fifth Element of Hip Hop

United States, 2011, HDV PAL - Color - 53

Klaus Schneyder

Angela Viscido/Klaus Schneyder

Klaus Schneyder

Angela Viscido, Eclectrix, Inc.



It was in the late 70s that a youth culture evolved in the poorer parts of New York which combined several disciplines under the name of Hip Hop. Apart from the four classic elements of Graffiti writing, DJing, Breakdancing, and Rapping, the musical side of this culture was enhanced by a fifth element called ‘Beatboxing’.From the hardship of poverty and the lack of instruments, a pioneer was inspired to imitate drum rhythms with his mouth – his brilliance creating the term ‘Human Beatbox’. Very soon other Hip Hop artists picked up his style and added this technique of music making to their own shows, but at that time beatboxing never left the realm of Hip Hop culture.At the end of the 80s the first big wave of beatboxing was over and beatboxing only existed in an underground scene. It took until the late 90s that the art of Human Beatboxing was explosively revived. At that time the Internet had emerged and offered new ways of communication for young artists. All of a sudden beatboxers from all over the world were given the opportunity to connect and share their knowledge on websites through videos and online tutorials.Since then Human Beatboxing has become a global phenomenon, which is organized and celebrated in the annual Beatbox Conventions and through Beatbox Competitions, that are being held in an increasing number of countries every year.The documentary aims at providing a full picture of this incredible art form starting with its genesis within Hip Hop Culture and continuing with its further developments and its use in various musical fields in several countries throughout the world.The documentary features artists from New York, California, Florida, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Belgium, Canada, Austria and Germany, who demonstrate their amazing techniques, which often seem impossible to audiences at first sight, but see for yourselves…

I am a first-time filmmaker. I was born in Düsseldorf, but raised in Linnich, a rural village near Cologne, in which my father was a vicar and my mother a primary school teacher. During my school years the positive influence of several ambitious teachers made me decide to become a teacher myself and study Music and English at the universities of Münster, Siegen and Dortmund. In one of the classes in Münster we studied film analysis and produced little short films. This was very intriguing to me and must have raised my initial interest in filmmaking. Later on, as part of my final exam, I was working on a research paper analyzing the portrayal of Hip Hop culture in school books when I found out that the art of making drum beats with the mouth has largely been neglected by writers and researchers.When I started working as a teacher, I was able to gain some more experience in low budget filmmaking through the production of several music video clips together with students from schools in Bochum and Aachen.While following my teaching career, I continued researching in the field of Beatboxing and had the idea of writing a book about the phenomenon to put it on a scientific level. In order to get first hand information, I decided to travel to California and New York, the places where Hip Hop and Beatboxing originates from. While establishing contacts to several artists overseas, I thought that it would be a good idea to also videotape the interviews in order to document everything. Thinking more and more about the recording of the interviews made me gradually work on a script and suddenly I found myself working on a full-length documentary, and so I postponed the book-writing plan for the time being to focus on the production of the documentary.I started my first trip to the US in the summer of 2007 and after receiving a lot of positive support from the artists, I was determined to finish the documentary regardless of the difficulties this may include. I think it was the experienced actor Michael Winslow (Police Academy Movies) who encouraged me most when he said “I know, you will make movies one day.”I hope that this documentary helps the Human Beatbox to finally become recognised and accepted as a true art form and a full musical instrument.– Klaus Schneyder




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