“From quaking Chiwawa to self-confident Rottweiler” – an interview with the beatbox world vice-champion

Making music and the mimicry of instruments with just your body? To some it may seem impossible. And yet. Human abilities and creativity have no limits. Meet Chiwawa, or Karolina Olech – a Polish beatboxer who is the world runner-up in this discipline.

Source: Instagram @wawacreate

To the uninitiated – what is beatboxing?

To my mind, it would be best to demonstrate it, unfortunately, however, it is impossible. Put simply, beatboxing is the making of sounds employing the vocal tract. Originally, the drum sounds were mainly imitated, but the beatboxing has evolved over time. Today full tracks of various genres involving a huge amount of sounds are created and that sometimes even surprise me. It’s amazing that a person is able to utter these sounds from the body and while keeping it under control to such an extent.

How did your beatboxing adventure begin?

When I was younger, about 6-7 years ago, I really enjoyed playing computer games. These were online games, so I had to communicate with other players through various programs on the Internet such as Discord. It was there that I first heard beatboxing. I was immediately thrilled and typed in Youtube to find out more about it. The final round of  the world championship in 2012 popped out. Having watched this video, I told myself that this is what I would sound like in the future, and that’s what I was striving for.

Where did the idea for the name Chiwawa come from?

This came from my special sound, which some associate with the barking Chihuahua. It is quite high, short, so one can think so. This nickname came itself to me. I didn’t think it up – my friends, family, and then the whole beatboxing community started calling me that.

How did you come up with that sound?

It’s quite a funny story as it came from my laughter. I bet everyone knows the feeling when they get such a fit of laughter they just can’t stop and it takes fifteen minutes until they get stomach ache. My laughter was quite distinctive. This is how the sound originated. I decided to refine it as initially it didn’t sound that good. It had this “something” thus it made it sound interesting. With a lot of practice, it had a higher pitch, sounding stronger and clearer. Now this sound is called Chiwawa Sound.

You started beatboxing just a few years ago, and you have developed tremendously in terms of technique and broadly understood creativity. Currently you are one of the top beatboxers from around the world. You have developed your own style which makes you so very unique. How does the process of creating the stage Chiwawa, that we can watch every day on the Internet, look like?

Each beatboxer discovers its own style with years of practising. It took me two years. I discovered it, among other things, by finding my own sound. Having practised it, I realized that high tones were my forte. I like music with a contrast between high and low sounds, so I decided to follow this too. I tried to make bass sounds and combine them with the high ones. I also have a second distinctive high-pitched sound, which was made two weeks before the world beatbox championship. I was visiting my boyfriend’s family in Vietnam, and from there we were supposed to fly to Berlin for the championship. Unfortunately, I developed a very serious throat infection. I was stressed all the time that I would not be able to do it and would have to cancel it, however, a few days before the departure I managed to recover and somehow the sound came out of nowhere. Owing to this, I created a few additional options in my routine, which I prepared for the world championship, and I think it was also this element of surprise, as it was something completely new. After the championship, I was afraid that the sound would disappear, but fortunately it is still there.

Who are your greatest idols?

The first person I should mention is Trung Bao. He motivates me and inspires me every day. What’s more, we live and practice together which is amazing. It’s hard for me to mention other beatboxers as there are so many of them and each of them is gifted. However, I can name a few – these are Skiller and Alem, as owing to them I started my adventure with beatboxing. There’s also Reeps One – anyone who is into beatboxing must have heard of him. He is just a legend. He is also an amazing artist and that is what I admire about him, I love his approach to art and music. Pe4enkata – a female beatbox icon, has always inspired me and was an example to me as a woman who has been successful in a male-dominated discipline. Her performances and competitions showed me that I am able to achieve something too, and that there are simply no women in this form of art.

Source: Instagram @wawacreate

We are living in these difficult times – the pandemic continues. The entire art industry has been brought to a standstill. How are beatboxers coping now when all live performances had to be cancelled?

In terms of competitions, they do take place, however, online. Some time ago I was judging the championship in Great Britain. It’s not the same as a live performance, but you have to bet by somehow. There are several types of beatboxers – some just like online competitions, others prefer live ones. I prefer the latter – now I miss people. I have also observed that a lot of beatboxers have started recording far more videos and uploading them online – on TikTok, for example. Apart from that, they also started teaching beatboxing online. Together with Trung, we are planing to record more videos and songs on Youtube  that would be a combination of image and sound. I have to admit that there are also advantages to this, as you can focus on practising. One can also treat it as a form of relaxation –  learning something new and practice.

You are the beatbox world runner-up – you won this title at such a young age, it is a great achievement. What did it feel going onto the stage and standing in front of such a large audience while being judged by beatbox legends?

Here the answer is simple – stress. I am the type of person who cares about and stresses practically everything. This championship was actually my first serious competition where I faced an opponent on stage. I felt stress and fear months before this event. The closer the date was, the more and more the stress became. However, when it comes to the moment of entering the stage – then everything disappeared. From such a shaky chiwawa, I turned into a confident Rottweiler.

What else would you like to achieve?  Is the vice-champion title enough for you, do you want more?

I want more. For the moment my goal is to win a wildcard for the biggest beatbox event, the Grand Beatbox Battle.

What is the major difficulty you usually face and what comes with ease regarding learning beatboxing?

I experience the greatest difficulty in motivating myself to practise – especially on those winter days when it gets dark very quickly. I have always believed that the best training is when it is spontaneous and when you simply feel that you just want to practise. I call it inspiration. This is not compulsory practice, it just comes naturally. Unfortunately, some things need to be practised on a regular basis and do not need inspiration. These are facial muscles and muscle memory. I call it the ability to smoothly move muscles between different sounds, which are dependent on their reflexes, i.e. on a quick change in the position of the tongue. It has to be practised and practised until it is just mastered. I try to do this every day. I admit that it sometimes takes fifteen minutes, and sometimes even 3-4 hours. It depends on the aforementioned inspiration. As for bass sounds, these are more problematic as they tear my throat and therefore I stop the moment I feel a sharper pain in my throat as I don’t want to develop any infection. Beatbox practising is like gym workout – your muscles need to recover. After one day of bass practising, take a day off. There were times when I had sore cheeks and neck muscles. What I enjoy the most are experiments. There are no limits to beatboxing. Experiments are about combining different sounds and checking what is happening then. It is a form of fun, expression, and it is very enjoyable, de-stressing and inspiring. I also have a second way to experiment – focusing on one sound and performing it in a different fashion. This sort of thinking appears here: what will happen if I do it with one breath? Or if I position my tongue in a different way than I usually do? There are plenty of such ideas. And that’s what brings me the greatest joy – discovering something new that is closely related to my body.

Source: Instagram @wawacreate

Together with your boyfriend Trung Bao, who is also a world-class beatboxer, you form a very harmonious duo – Bawa. Your videos can be watched on Tiktok, Instagram, YouTube. You have several hundred thousand, and sometimes even millions of views, however, you haven’t performed together in a competition yet. Are you planning to take part in any competitions together and submit your duo to the next edition of Grand Beatbox Battle?

Not as much as we plan, but we know it will happen. We don’t know when yet – that’s a question mark. We have to focus on practising together. So far, as Tag Team, we have performed in China at the championship, however, it was a jury show. We felt very well on stage, so we know it’s for sure.

I know that apart from beatboxing, you both create some kind of computer animation. You’ve collaborated with stars like Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa. What exactly is your activity about?

 

Basically it’s about Bawa Visual, but first let me tell you what Bawa is. It’s a name invented by us – a combination of our beatbox pseudonyms. It is our duo – whatever we do together we call it Bawa. As for visual art, we decided to do it with a larger group – Fustic Studio. It is a group of creative people who want to share their knowledge and skills and do something interesting together. We belong to it. Now we’re leaving the Bawa Visual a bit behind and focusing on this larger group.

I’d like to address the topic that you and Trung have touched on a lot on the internet – which is feminism in beatboxing. Actually, no one knowns why there is a false assumption that beatboxing is typically masculine and that women are not fit for it. Such an approach intensifies the division into women and men at championships. What is your view on these types of comments?

I’m not a big fan of that division. As for me, it would be better if everyone could unite. Then the girls would also get such a “kick” and excitement from practising. On the other hand, some prefer to have that division. If someone is, for example, shy and would not like to jump into mixed competition, then if there were no divisions, such a person would never go on stage. And yet you have to practise it, you have to go on stage – this would make this person feel more and more confident. Therefore, these are also two sides of the same coin.

As for the comments – you have to ignore them and carry on practising, be the best without looking at others. Back in the day, I was very upset by the sexist comments below my beatbox videos and that was an issue for me. When I was recording something, uploading it was very stressful experience. I realized, however, that comments meant nothing and that they would always be there. Regardless of how good the person is – these comments were and will be. There are various reasons why they appear – I believe some may be jealous, others, without empathy, express their opinions in a rude way, or simply they are just internet trolls.

I believe that within the entire beatbox community the general feeling is getting better when it comes to sexism and stereotypes. More and more girls are emerging, participating in competitions and are more confident. The issue of sexism has been publicized by popular beatbox platforms such as Swissbeatbox or Human Beatbox, which has increased people’s awareness that this problem exists and is painful and unfair. Such comments can also be treated as a motivation for practising. I remember when I started my adventure with beatboxing. You could hear everywhere the opinion that women are not able to learn bass sounds. There was never really an explanation of why. I managed to learn bass. This is further proof that these comments mean nothing.

That, among other things, is the reason you are a huge inspiration to other girls who want to learn how to beatbox. Owing to you, they know that all you have to do is keep practising, and such comments make no sense.

Yes it’s true! The best way is to ignore them, and even better, not to read them.

Thank you for taking time to talk to me.

Beatbox is an art worth delving into. There are no limits here, and from one year to another favourite beatboxers can surprise us more and more. One can find out about it by listening to Chiwawa’s solo beatbox project entitled “King Of The Jungle”, as well as a duet with Trung Bao – “You’re Not Ready For This”.

Author: Julia Pacholska

Dziękuję za pomoc w tłumaczeniu Panu Adamowi Dyakowskiemu.

Dodaj komentarz

Twój adres e-mail nie zostanie opublikowany. Wymagane pola są oznaczone *

8 + 15 =