The sweet sound of beats

From the underground hip-hop clubs of London, the a cappella beatboxing group 'The Boxettes' will perform at the Holon International Women’s Festival.

By NOGA GUR-ARIE
March 2, 2014 12:24
The Boxettes

The Boxettes. (photo credit: Courtesy)

In 2008, five young women from London combined their musical skills in what would become the only all-female a cappella beatboxing group. The Boxettes have garnered an impressive following in their native UK and popularity in the US. Their cover of the British hip-hop dance hit “La La La” by Sam Smith and Naughty Boy went viral with more than 650,000 hits. The women don’t use any instruments but use only their voices to create the illusion of a full band.

The band will be a special feature at the 18th Annual Holon International Women’s Festival, which will take place from March 6 to 8. The festival was established to give a platform to the achievements of female cultural, artistic, social and business leaders.

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The members of The Boxettes are Belle “Bellatrix” Ehresmann; Alyusha Chagrin; Kate Brown; Neo Jushua; and Yvette Roby-Williams. As a group, the women are breaking new ground in the trend of a cappella, which has become more mainstream, highlighted on television in shows like Glee and in films such as the surprise 2012 hit Pitch Perfect.

Four of the five Boxettes are graduates of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, a century-old English institution that is known for graduating classical music artists. Brown studied at Southampton University and auditioned for the group after a previous member left. Ehresmann, who is a world champion beatboxer, approached each member individually about starting a group. At their first meeting, a friend suggested the name for the group, and it stuck.

In addition to surprising audiences with their enormous skill, the group doesn’t fit into the stereotypical pop-girl groups exported from the UK, representing a variety of ethnicities. In six years, the group has enjoyed mounting success in Europe, performing at London’s most prestigious venues and in major festivals. They have also become a household name in Asia and the US, sweeping audiences off their feet with music that reaches straight to the soul.

The Boxettes released their first EP in 2011, with their single “Free” going viral with more than 20,000 hits. Their second EP, “No Strings,” will be released in April. The video for the lead track, “Puppet on a String,” is already drawing attention on YouTube.

Ahead of The Boxettes’ arrival in Israel, group leader Ehresmann talked about breaking stereotypes, making music and the road to success.

Why beatboxing of all musical genres?
The Boxettes isn’t just about beatboxing – it’s more about the human voice. I am a beatboxer, and Alyusha, Kate, Neo and Yvette are singers who use their voice in an exploratory and interesting way. There is something about the sound of the unadulterated human voice that seems to really resonate with people. And it was really exciting when we began to realize the potential to make such an exciting sound with only our voices. Furthermore, we can make our music anywhere and any time we want because we are our instruments!

How did the audience respond when you first started performing?
I think people were intrigued. When we first started, we didn’t sound like The Boxettes do today. We were doing a mixture of other things – some more vocally familiar and some not so. But one thing’s for sure: Our audience’s reactions and enjoyment have evolved over time, just like the music coming from the band.

Did you think you’d become this successful?
When we started, we were all just enjoying the opportunity to grow this new music. I think it took us a while to really realize that wow, something is really growing here and people absolutely love us! It’s wonderful that we have the support of such an amazing fan base the world over. It keeps us inspired to make more music and try out lots of new things.

As women in a male-dominated genre, what kinds of comments do you get?
We generally receive very positive comments being females in a male-dominated genre. People tend to view us as first being really good at what we do, and then acknowledge that we are all female. As opposed to being good, for female beatboxers and vocalists.

Who are your musical inspirations?
There are so many influences and inspirations among us. From Donny Hathaway to Bjork, Kiri Te Kanawa, Beyonce, traditional world music and, of course, the obvious – jazz, hip-hop and groove-based music.

Do you consider what you do a breakthrough in traditional gender roles?
Do you feel like you inspire women who have “untraditional” dreams? It’s quite a unique concept having five females creating such a big, heavy, live sound. So yes, we are perhaps breaking some ‘gender roles’ when it comes to our music. Above all, we want our music to appeal to both sexes. We would encourage women to definitely break tradition and follow their dreams, no matter what they are. We have all pursued our passions and dreams and feel very fulfilled in The Boxettes. Also, hard work is very important. We work very hard training our voices, working on our sounds and writing our music.

What are your plans for the near future?
Currently, we’re in the studio creating and fusing a new sound. It’s never been heard before by the public, and it’s very exciting for us. That’s all we’re saying for now, but keep checking up on our social media (@theboxettes; Facebook; and our website www.theboxettes.co.uk). There are some very exciting developments for 2014!

What advice would you give to a beginner beatboxer?
The key to becoming a great beatboxer is practice! The more time you put into developing your sounds, your flow and your style, the better you will become. Simple.

Is there any place in Israel that you particularly want to see or visit?
We are so excited to be visiting Israel for the very first time! We are very happy to be part of the International Women’s Festival, as we are so proud to be women in the music industry. We can’t wait to see the other inspiring acts and give everyone a great show! The sights we’d love to see in Israel are the Bahai Gardens in Haifa because we all love nature very much. Also, we’d love to visit the Dead Sea, as it’s very good for the skin.


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