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SK Shlomo in 2007
|Birth name||Simon Shlomo Kahn|
|Born||1983 (age 37–38)|
|Origin||Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, England, United Kingdom|
SK Shlomo is of Jewish descent, with Israeli, Iraqi and German lineage. He grew up in the village of Bourne End, Buckinghamshire. He is a classically trained percussionist and a jazz drummer, learning the drums from the age of eight and playing classical percussion in youth orchestras. His father is a jazz guitarist. He began making vocal rhythms as a child as a way to practise his drums, and in his teens discovered that others practised the art of human beatboxing. In 2003 he left the Physics with Astrophysics degree course at Leeds University to pursue his music full-time.
SK Shlomo first began performing as a beatboxer in 2002 when he became the champion at the King of the Jam beatboxing tournament in London, winning a pot of Bonne Maman jam. He became known for his original beatboxing techniques including his 2-mic trancebox routine which he debuted at the World Beatbox Convention in 2003.
He first came to broader attention in 2004 when he collaborated with Björk on her all vocal song Oceania, which Björk later performed at the opening ceremony of the Athens of the 2004 Summer Olympics. The song Oceania was commissioned by the Olympic Games Committee and heard by an estimated 3.9 billion people around the world making SK Shlomo one of the most-heard beatboxers in history (although most would not have realised that the drum sounds were vocal). The performance was nominated for a Grammy Award. He began touring the UK, Europe and Canada with London hip hop act Foreign Beggars, before making a solo appearance on Later... with Jools Holland in late 2005. Following a performance at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall concert hall, he became Artist in Residence at Southbank Centre in 2007.
As part of his residency at Southbank Centre, SK Shlomo curated and performed in a collaborative concert series Music Through Unconventional Means from 2007 to 2010 which featured a diverse range of artists including Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, DJ Yoda and Jarvis Cocker.
The Vocal Orchestra
In 2007, he put together the world's first beatboxing choir, the Vocal Orchestra, to headline at the International Beatbox Convention. The original group consisted of a cappella ensemble The Swingle Singers alongside beatboxers MC Zani, Bellatrix and Neil Thomas. The group was created in 6 weeks, with their debut performance selling out before the group had even met. The process was recorded by filmmaker Colette McWilliams. Her documentary, The Beatbox Choir, was awarded Best Documentary at the OS International Film Festival, and included in the official selection at the D Reel International Film Festival, Australia. In 2012 the film was made freely available on SK Shlomo's website. After the initial process in 2007, SK Shlomo adapted the line-up of the Vocal Orchestra to comprise eight people to tour at festivals.
SK Shlomo has performed at festivals including Montreux Jazz Festival, Glastonbury, Bestival, Wilderness Festival and Lovebox. At The Big Chill festival he appeared as a guest of Nightmares on Wax in 2006, with his Vocal Orchestra in 2007, as a guest of the Mighty Boosh in 2008, as a collaborator with Hexstatic in 2009, and as a solo performer in 2010.
SK Shlomo has performed at every Glastonbury Festival since 2005. At Glastonbury in 2007, SK Shlomo performed as part of Africa Express and beatboxed on a live version of A Message to You, Rudy accompanying Terry Hall and Lynval Golding from The Specials with Damon Albarn on piano. Emily Eavis then invited SK Shlomo to return to Glastonbury in 2008 to curate and perform in a special 2-hour "Music Through Unconventional Means" set, with a host of guests including Martha Wainwright, Ed Harcourt, DJ Yoda, Reverend and the Makers, Portico Quartet, Lemn Sissay, and Martina Topley Bird.
At the 2009 Latitude Festival he collaborated with Jarvis Cocker as part of the Cape Farewell presentation, performing Purple Haze. At Glastonbury in 2009 and 2010 he collaborated with vocal artist Imogen Heap and in 2011 with Ed Sheeran and Abandoman. In 2015 he created a Glastonbury drumming record with his guests Lily Allen and Rudimental. In 2015 SK Shlomo closed the Wilderness Festival with his Vocal Orchestra, the 50 strong Wilderness Orchestra and a 200 strong choir embedded in the audience.
Work in education and charity work
SK Shlomo founded the first Beatbox Academy in South London, teaches and speaks at educational conferences around the world, and continues to tour his acclaimed shows for kids.
In 2008, SK Shlomo co-founded a programme teaching beatboxing to young people called the Beatbox Academy with Battersea Arts Centre. He developed a series of free learning resources in association with Musical Futures which he publishes on his website.
He hosted a Concert Against Knife Crime in 2008 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in an attempt to raise awareness of the benefits of working creatively with young people. Musical guests at the concert included Jarvis Cocker, Mutya Buena, Ashley Walters and Teddy Thompson. In 2008, he was commissioned to create a piece called "One Voice", bringing together four community choirs from diverse backgrounds including a Gospel Choir, a Brazilian Choir, a children's choir and a contemporary choir. The following year, he worked with BBC Blast to promote beatboxing to young people in a series of short films.
In April 2009 he created Urban Vani, a community project bringing together beatboxing and South Asian Dance. In 2012, he created a new Indian beatboxing orchestra called "Voctronica" in collaboration with the British Council.
SK Shlomo's charity work includes hosting blindfolded gigs for RLSB with Imogen Heap and Basement Jaxx, and regular collaborations with Cape Farewell, a climate change awareness charity. In 2005 he worked with the Ubuntu Educational Fund to raise money for orphaned and vulnerable children in South Africa. He has also made two charity collaborative albums with the proceeds going to War Child and Médecins Sans Frontières respectively.
Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra
In 2010 SK Shlomo performed the premiere of the "Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra" by Anna Meredith, an acclaimed contemporary composer who had risen to critical acclaim after composing a piece for the Last Night of the Proms. The Concerto was commissioned by Southbank Centre and was the first fully developed orchestral work to feature a beatboxer as the soloist, as well as 5 more beatboxers embedded in the 21 piece orchestra. Anna Meredith and SK Shlomo spent 2 years developing a notation system to create the score, which SK Shlomo then made available for free via his website.
World Loopstation championships
SK Shlomo incorporates a loop pedal into his solo performances to perform more complex original compositions and covers. In October 2010 he entered the UK heats of the World Loopstation Championships and became the UK Champion. He then flew to Los Angeles in January 2011 and was awarded the title of World Loopstation Champion by the judges Dave Navarro, Steve Stevens and Dub FX.
Since become World Loopstation Champion, he has been in demand as an authority on technology and creativity. He has spoken at international events including TEDx, CDI in Mexico, ITV’s Big Think, Roundhouse Rising, Music Tech Fest, MGX (Microsoft USA) and WIRED2014.
Theatrical work and the Edinburgh Fringe
In 2011 SK Shlomo toured his first one-man theatrical show "Mouthtronica" which explored SK Shlomo's Iraqi-Jewish background and the story of how he became a beatboxer. In each performance, SK Shlomo improvised a spontaneous collaboration with a local guest artist, which were sourced via Twitter and Facebook. The collaborations were recorded for an improvised charity album which raised over £500 for medical charity Doctors Without Borders. After the initial 22 date UK tour, SK Shlomo took Mouthtronica to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where the show received several five star reviews, was nominated for the Holden Street Theatres' Edinburgh Fringe Award and sold out for the entire four-week run. While he was in Edinburgh, SK Shlomo performed a collaboration with singer James Morrison for BBC Radio 1 and worked with his childhood hero Michael Winslow to create a special one-off show called "Old Skool meets New Skool".
SK Shlomo's theatrical work includes 3 full length one man theatre shows, all of which have sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and toured the UK. He also created and directed a stage show entitled The Vocal Orchestra which for ran for at London's Southbank, Edinburgh Fringe and continues to tour internationally.
Guinness World records
SK Shlomo has twice held the record for the World's Largest Beatbox Ensemble, and is the current holder for directing a group of 2,081 Google employees at the Dublin Convention Centre in November 2011.
Work as a composer
SK Shlomo is often commissioned to write for choirs, stage shows, films and adverts. Recent works include a score for the BFI's restoration of Alfred Hitchcock's Downhill, a specially commissioned piece for the Royal Festival Hall's organ and a nomination for the British Composer Awards for his piece for the National Youth Choir.
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