News from our Official Foreign Correspondent

John Berkavitch has been appointed OneTaste’s Official Foreign Correspondent, uncovering tales and adventures from around the world…Currently residing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Berky caught up with a well known beatboxer in the back of a taxi…

Killa Kela in Cambodia: A John Berkavitch interview

YO What's up OneTasters.
Yu main man John Berky Berkavitch checking in from Phnom Penh Cambodia.
I managed to jump in

a taxi with Killa Kela after he'd performed on a boat here the other night. I asked him some questions, he gave me some answers.

Part way through the interview the taxi we were in got a flat tire so it pulled into a garage. In the garage the mechanic pulled a nail out of our flat tire. Then he went over to his tool box and compared it to a load of other nails. He returned with a nail that had a wider diameter, hammered it into the hole left by the other one and re-inflated the tire.
The taxi driver then drove as fast as he could in case the tire went flat again.

I'll be back soon with a Cambodian remake of Cannibal Kids by Sound of Rum…

Phnom Penh’s hip-hop scene rocked the boat on Friday night with a live PA from one of the world’s premier beatboxers. Killa Kela and DJ Skelectrik made a flying visit to Cambodia as part of their latest tour of South East Asia.

Since the late 1990’s Killa Kela has made a name for himself as one of the pioneers of hip-hop’s fifth element.

For those unfamiliar with the art of beatboxing it has been simply described as making music with your mouth. A combination of drum beats, percussion, rhythmical sounds and imitated musical instruments, all performed live on stage by one man with nothing more than a microphone and his own mouth.

“Everything you are about to hear is being made live on this stage right now”, proclaimed Killa Kela as he stepped out on stage at Pontoon, the city’s only floating nightspot.

With several critically acclaimed album releases and over a decade’s experience of live performance, including opening for Jay Z and the Beatnuts, touring with Snoop Doggy Dog, a Blue Peter showcase and even a live PA at the Royal variety performance for the Queen of England, Kela is considered by many to be one of the leading authorities on something he referred to as “Not just beatboxing, but Multivocalism.”

We managed to catch up with him the following morning in the back of a taxi on the way back to the airport only 18 hours after arriving in the capital.

Berx: You played on Pontoon last night how do you think that went?

Kela: Nice I haven’t played on a boat in a while. Not really any good at swimming. I learnt through panic and necessity.

Berx: So what are you doing out here in South East Asia, and more specifically Cambodia?

Kela: At the moment we’re out here touring, visiting some new places this time around. We were out in Asia about 8 months ago, but this is the first time we’ve been to Cambodia. We’re also doing Singapore, Thailand, China and Malaysia.

Berx: I think I first saw you perform in Nottingham back in 2000. Obviously it’s been a little while, so how have you developed your act since then?

Kela: I think that over time the more boards you walk the more you learn. As far as beatboxing goes it’s become a lot more widespread, people seem to know what it is now. So you hone in on what your niche is. I’ve always been a fan of the whole Multivocal thing – taking other vocal disciplines and incorporating it all into one body of work – a sound of music you know?

Berx: So what is this Multivocalism thing? It’s a term I’ve heard you use quite a lot.

Kela: It’s like doing melodies and the beats at the same time, or taking a spoken word or rap and changing up your pitch into a girl’s voice or a monster voice – just taking those fun elements from, like, police academy sound effects or Rahzel’s “If Your Mother Only Knew”, then adapting it more into music.

(Amplified, the new Killa Kela album, now available to buy on iTunes, features a wide range of musical influences from hip-hop, electro, dance, house, jazz and drum and bass).

Kela: I stick with the ethos that it’s about trying to transfer what you do in the live shows into music so you can open and broaden your appeal to a wider audience.

Berx: What can we expect from the new album? It’s not just hip-hop is it?

Kela: It’s not just hip-hop I guess it’s all those influences that up until now, being the age I was, I wasn’t confident enough use. I wasn’t confident enough to just do the music that I wanted to do and also to adapt it so freely with the beatbox. But nowadays, as we said, it’s more widespread. There are people like Timberland and Timberlake and The Neptunes and Jay Sean and loads of British acts, like Frank Music, and then the others like Beardy Man, Rahzel and Eclipse, and a lot of other amazing beatboxers as well who are creating more open-mindedness towards putting that across in music.

There’s influence from Drum and Bass and hip-hop but you’ve got to remember it’s about appeal. I’ve taken the gold dust from each scene and try to cater for what the kids want. I just try to make my music broad. I mean sometimes you get people coming up and saying “Do the dubstep thing”, but it’s just a genre. I’m not about the genre I’m about the music.

Berx: So what do you think of the scene out here? Is it all Lady boys and Gary Glitter types?

Kela: No it’s not. I find that every time I post something on Facebook I get all these people making lady-boy jokes and it couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t understand where it comes from it’s not anything like that. It’s just bad press.

Berx: Have you seen much in the way of local hip-hop while you’ve been here?

Kela: Yeah, I was in the studio in Bangkok with a group called Thaitanium. I walked into their office and they’ve got a studio and a radio station and marketing and live radio feeds and a TV show…They’ve got it nailed. Hung drawn and quartered…and next door they’ve got a hairdressers! Also Kentaro he’s a sick DJ. I’ve heard a bit about this NGO hip-hop collective TinyToones as well. It sounds wicked, but I wasn’t here long enough to get down there this time.

Berx: So you’re only in Cambodia for about 18 hours, you’re off to Hanoi now. Do you think we can expect to see you back out here at any point in the future?

Kela: Yeah, well I’ve got some redeeming to do I feel like I’ve only managed to see a small snapshot. It seems like the CP5 guys are putting in a lot of work in terms of getting a scene going, but there’s more ground to be covered and I’d love to come back and be a part of that. Obviously there are a lot of people here that have never seen beatboxing…although I suppose there’s a lot of people here who haven’t seen MacDonald’s yet so that’s all still to come.

Berx: Do you have any advice for young Cambodian beatboxers or artist’s who want to get heard?

Kela: Just do it man. Lose your inhibitions forget what you’re told to say and just create your own language. Just Beatbox. I mean there’s a wealth of information out there on the internet. Just take advantage of that to get up to speed and learn as much as you can.

The scene at home can get quite incestuous. Just because beatboxers copy other beatboxers so the sound gets diluted. But it’s all about your own style and I think that maybe that’s what’s lacking. There are always techniques you’d have to learn but you should apply it to your own style. I mean that’s the future isn’t it these new kids.

I think it’s when you come to places like Cambodia that you realise that nobody can ever be the world’s number one, that no one could constantly be coming up with new sounds when they are constantly copying and rehashing each other’s stuff. And it’s places like this where it all begins again. I’d love to be part of it.

Killa Kela’s album Amplified is available online at and iTunes and you can find links to tracks on his Facebook fan page.

Comments... read/submit
Comments are currently closed.
  1. niddeleSist

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  2. Anonymous

    hi wats your myspace page