Shlomo: Mouthtronica

Loud beat-boxing and polite conversation


By Lee Levitt, August 9, 2011
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Shlomo

Shlomo

At the start of his first theatrical one-man show, Shlomo promises "an entire hour of loud beat-boxing and polite conversation".

As he mashes and bashes away at his sophisticated musical equipment, writhes his upper body about and thrusts his right hand downwards, inwards and outwards, mixing and remixing a remarkable concoction of syncopated sounds from his mouth and the sell-out audience, interspersed with tales of a rich musical heritage that spring from his late Iraqi-Jewish grandparents, you sense that he has undersold himself, just a bit.

Effervescent and wildly inventive, Simon "Shlomo" Kahn is a technical musical wizard, who has the audience whooping, clapping, whistling and laughing throughout a pulsating, purple, red and orange-mist infused performance.

Introducing himself, the mild-mannered Shlomo recounts how Dame Helen Mirren had asked him, on a TV show, what his real name was, declaring Shlomo to be a "silly" one.

"It's actually my middle name," he explains, adding: "Shlomo's a Hebrew name - it means 'peace' and 'hello'. If I went to Israel, it would be boring, a bit like being called Dave."

He demonstrates the mechanics of his trade, from how he uses his voice, teeth and lips to microphone control, the loop station, pitch shifter (cue, a deep voice) and morchang (an Indian Jew's harp), while also introducing us to his family in which his "nana" Julie and grandpa Josh from Edgware were seminal influences.

We learn how as a three-year-old he had belly-danced at one of his grandma's parties - "people would come from far and wide... from Golders Green and Edgware," he jests - hear his nana ullulating and grandpa Josh playing the doumbek (a Middle East hand-drum) and rolling his worry beads together; and discover how he progressed from getting his first drum kit, aged eight, to playing drums in his dad's jazz band, winning a King of the Jam beatbox competition at 18, and being asked to record with the Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk. Before earlier this year becoming the world loop station champion in Los Angeles.

What makes it all the more intriguing is that the 27-year-old musical phenomenon's formative years were spent in "the sleepy village" of Bourne End in Buckinghamshire where he sometimes had to stop practising on the drums as it was too loud for the neighbours.

Underbelly - Belly Dancer, until Aug 28

    Last updated: 8:22am, August 9 2011