Ankush Jain is a man of many caps – literally and figuratively. Musician, nature enthusiast, stage performer, and India’s first multi-instrumental beatboxer, this 22 year-old has performed for over 200 shows, with highlights including opening for Armaan Malik during his hugely successful Chennai concert, giving a TEDx talk on beatboxing. Now, he looks toward healing the world with his music through music therapy. We sit down with him for a talk about his role and place in the Indian hip-hop community and what it means to him.
1. You’ve been given the title of India’s first multi-instrumental beatboxer. Could you tell me how you started your journey beatboxing and how you developed the ability to play multiple instruments?
I have always been a curiosity-driven person; So, when I randomly stumbled upon this Ted Talk by Tom Thum, it was amazing how someone could make music with just their voice. I wanted to try my hand at least to pass time in classes, if not choose the professional route. So once I got my basics sorted, I wanted to be different than every other beatboxer who was on the scene, which is when I decided to mend together two of my biggest puzzles to solve- beatboxing and wind instruments. So, a month of learning the basics of an instrument and the next few weeks of trying to incorporate beatboxing into it was how it all began.
2. What inspired you to look towards music therapy as one of your goals? In what ways could you imagine beatboxing being used as a form of therapy?
After almost 4 years of performing professionally, I realized that if I cannot make use of this blessing to make a difference, it’d be a complete waste of my gift. With music therapy, its not just beatboxing, its the rhythm and music as a whole that will come into play. It will vary from client to client and I’m extremely excited to learn that and incorporate them. In the couple of clients that I performed for, beatboxing in itself has got them excited but when they feel the rhythm and vibrations, it’s beautiful to witness their responses which otherwise is difficult to get out of them.
3. How do you plan to use your musical skill set into music therapy?
I’ve realized that most of us have our set of tracks or music that we go to whenever we feel happy/sad. I am just going to be the channel through which my clients can reconnect to the areas they want to get rid of or better.
4. How was your experience being part of the TedX Pune?
It was surreal. I mean, I had started off beatboxing because of a TedTalk and to be delivering one myself a few years later is something I still find difficult to incorporate into words. To be able to represent an art form that was still upcoming is something that I take a lot of pride in. So if I had an option of reliving just one day of my life, I think I’d choose that day even 10 years later I guess.
5. How many shows and performances have you given till now? What have been your favourite performances or experiences up until now in your career?
I don’t really keep a count of those. It must be 250-300 and upwards if I am not wrong. There are quite a few gigs that are close to my heart, obviously, the TedxTalk, opening for Armaan Malik, the RiderMania for Royal Enfield where I got to perform with Vineeth Vincent; the artist I look up to in more aspects than just music and a few college gigs in Chennai like M.O.P. Vaishnav, Shasun College and Stella Maris are my favorites.
6. Just like with other art forms, there are a lot of myths around the art of beatboxing. What are some of the most crazy ones you have heard throughout your journey – and would you be able to debunk them?
Yeah, the myths are not just with beatboxing but with music and musicians in general. There are a few people who do not consider beatboxing as a form of music. I’d like to prove to them that it is as much music as playing any instrument. We follow a tempo, scale, time signatures just like any musician does. The perception of musicians are unkind to one another is something that bothers me because the brotherhood and camaraderie we share is for all of us to witness.
7. Beatboxing and hip-hop community in India has been growing in leaps and bounds over the past few years. Having been a part of that community for a while, how far has it come from when you started till now?
When I started out 4 years back, there were hardly any beatboxers in the country. Over the past few years with the exposure through the internet and more recently with movies like Gully Boy coming in, the hip hop community has grown not only in numbers but also in terms of our quality. It is extremely heartening to see beatboxers take the professional route and spread the art form to new audiences every single day.
8. What are your favorite routines that you perform?
My favorite routine is when I get to play with my audiences. I get them to clap and give me a tempo and beatbox on top of that layer; beatboxing with the harmonica and the moorsing as well has got me and my audiences going for a while now.
9. Could you tell me a bit about your background? What are your interests outside of beatboxing?
I am an avid gardener and a keen reader. I like to spend most of my free time on my terrace garden and reading. So much so that, I’ve recently put together my savings and started a small online business by the name of The Chlorofeel Club where we sell indoor plants online.
10. What’s next for you?
Since December 2019, 30% of my income from music has been set aside for planting trees in and around Chennai. So really looking forward to collaborating with people of similar mindset so that we plant as many trees as possible and do our share in fighting climate change. Also, I am all set to travel abroad to pursue my Postgraduate degree in music therapy. Extremely excited to see how both these plans unfold.