Jason Tom: The Human BeatBox
Jason Tom, 33, is known as Hawaii’s Human Beatbox. He is a two-time performance poet grand finalist and five-time, 1st place winner of Hawaiʻi Slam’s First Thursdays poetry slam.
As the founder of the Human Beatbox Academy, Tom does outreach with performances, workshops and events for people of all ages. He has toured China and collaborated with groups such as Hawaiʻi Meth Project and Music With A Message.
Tom has been a featured presenter at TEDx Talk conferences, the 6th International Human Beatbox Convention, the 1st and 5th American Beatbox Championship in New York City, and is also featured in the documentary film, “American Beatboxer.
What inspired you to get into Beatboxing and when did you know you had a knack for it?
Music, television and life experience! I grew up listening to music on vinyl records and cassette tapes. I began recording myself on a cassette at 4-years-old, beatboxing and scat singing to the chorus of Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” This was before I understood what I was really doing… I just did it, because I kept hearing the music in my head!
I briefly played around with a toy piano, ukulele and tuba growing up, but beatboxing is my first and main instrument I gravitate toward. It took several life experiences when I was 14, 20 and 21 before I knew this is something I want to pursue, because of my passion for music. I dug deep and at the age of 21, I went for it with a passion!
Who are some of your inspirations?
Michael Jackson, who composed and wrote songs using his voice and beatboxing as his instrumental tool! Bobby McFerrin, Michael Winslow, Doug E. Fresh the Human Beatbox, Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze, and MC Jin!
Also my inspirations include people of all walks and my former beatbox students throughout the years from the Human Beatbox Academy. Though I had a rough upbringing from childhood through my teenage years, when it comes down to it I have to say my parents and older sister!
Describe your musical style?
I like my music to have an umpff and something that tells a story through vocal musical sounds. My musical style is based on my raw emotion, energy, creativity and personality put together as one. Most of my catalog is original instrumental music I create from scratch. Making something out of nothing. Though not limited to, it has also been described as rap and electronic dance music.
Why do you feel Beatboxing is a relevant art form?
It’s a global musical expression and it is the human voice, a universal instrument and language. People from different countries and cultures speak different languages, and beatboxing is a bridge of communication that has the ability to break down barriers. It can be a conversation starter and it breaks the ice.
Growing up, I was often scolded, was quiet, didn’t say much, but now I have the freedom and ability to say and express my emotions just by beatboxing. Most of the time without saying a single word. To me, I can express and say a lot more just by beatboxing than by speaking, it’s my poetry.
I was an introvert and beatboxing taught me how to become an extrovert. Though, I still am very much an introvert today, I often recharge my batteries through my quiet down time. I am also most productive during my quiet time. Then when it’s time to hit the stage… that’s when I release my music, energy and sound!
How do you distinguish yourself in the genre?
I am a blend of old- and new- school beatboxing with genres of hip-hop, house and dubstep with aloha! I distinguish myself by not forgetting my roots and where I came to know where I will be going.
Having been born and raised in the aloha state of Hawaii, I am happy to share that aloha spirit through beatboxing with the world!
What would you like to see happen in your career in the next five years?
I would like to be just as passionate about beatboxing as when I first started or even more passionate, because if there’s no passion then there’s no reason or purpose to move forward or to even live. I also hope to grow and learn more in five years.
There’s been rough seasons where I’ve considered quitting more than once in my career so far, but I promised to God in 2008 that I won’t ever quit no matter how difficult it got.
To persevere no matter what! And boy, it does become difficult to continue even with the promise, but I’m glad my passion for beatboxing remains strong today! There has been peaks and valleys.
I hope that I will be smarter and wiser in five years than I am today.
What professional dream is going to be the next one to come true?
I would hope and like to see the next generation of Hawaii beatboxers come up! It’s a young community and to me it’s an extension of all the time and energy poured into the Human Beatbox Academy throughout the years!
I thrive and enjoy climbing the mountain of work. It’s what keeps me going today! My professional dream is for the Hawaii beatbox community to continue to mature and grow!
Julia Hulme is originally from England, but has resided in Berlin, Germany since 2009. She runs a series of underground events featuring Berlin's most loved deep house & techno DJs. Julia is the producer of a new open air festival coming to Hawaii called Isle 9, which fuses Pacific vibes with the Berlin Open Air culture.