Music has been a major part of my life, up to a point that I can honestly say that it has shaped me into the person who I am today. However, the irony is that I can never seem to pick up an instrument, which is disappointing.
After meeting Abdullah Wafi bin Haji Rusli, better known simply as Wafi, my perception changed as he showed me all you need is a voice, a microphone and a community to make it worthwhile.
“Beatbox or beatboxing is an expressive art form that involves the use of the mouth and voice to create music,” explained Wafi.
The first time I saw and heard him beatbox, I could not believe my eyes, nor my ears. How he is able to make complex audio loops and melodies spontaneously with just his voice and a microphone still boggles my mind.
Sharing his initial steps into beatboxing, Wafi said, “I used to sing in a choir back in 2007. It was there that I learned how amazing the human voice could be; it’s amazing how voices can create such beautiful harmonies and rhythms. Then, in 2014 in my second year of university, that’s when I first saw someone beatboxing with my own eyes.”
The passionate beatboxer shared that beatboxing is fairly new in Brunei compared to other countries, and that people are slowly understanding and have been showing interest in it since lately.
“Since it’s new, there are still things that people are getting used to. I admit there are a lot of weird sounds that most are not familiar with,” added Wafi.
With his passion growing, the beatboxer shared he wanted to reach out to more local beatboxers and establish a scene in the Sultanate.
“At this day and age it’s amazing how you can connect with people with similar interests. I first started posting videos of me beatboxing and since then I’ve seen and even met with many young and talented individuals who picked up beatboxing in their spare time.”
After seeing there are aspiring beatboxers surfacing in Brunei, Wafi set up Brunei Beatbox Unity, a local beatboxing community in 2018.
“I literally went around and asked any beatboxer who would be willing to hang out and have jamming sessions. Initially there were 10 of us polishing our skills and even holding beatbox battles competing with one another,” he recalled.
Wafi explained that he believes it is important to have a community where everyone can share their knowledge by helping and pushing everyone to be better at their skills.
“The thing about beatboxing is that it helped shape my mindset to be more open to learning and to believe that the time and effort put into practicing or performing would only make me better at it,” he said.
Asked what his vision is for the local beatbox scene, Wafi shared that he aims to helm and organise more competitions to further expose beatboxing in the country.
“Beatboxing originated in the United States, and is one of the elements of hip-hop. With that in mind, it’s easily accepted as part of their culture. After joining beatbox competitions like the ones in Indonesia, I realised we need to organise our own competitions and events to further expose the art of beatboxing to a wider audience,” said Wafi.
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the country, Wafi shared that the scene has moved online with competitions hosted via Discord.
The local beatboxer is passionate and sees potential in the growth of the scene, stating that more young individuals are picking up the art of beatboxing and are fairly good at it.
“With beatboxing, I hope to make an impact on the community to inspire people to not be afraid to be creative when it comes to expressing themselves. No one else can be you but you,” highlighted the passionate beatboxer.
Wafi also added that one of his unforgettable beatboxing memories is performing an acapella before His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and the royal family at Bandarku Ceria in 2020.