The fame of ‘Kerala’s first lady beatboxer’ sits lightly on Ardhra Sajan’s shoulders. Her forte is a blend of mimicry and beatboxing. She also does flute beatboxing or fluteboxing — a combination of flute tones and vocal percussion.
Ardhra’s tryst with beatboxing began two years ago because of her love for mimicry. “I love imitating people and sounds of nature. In class 10, I participated in the Kerala State School Arts Festival (2017). But I got only a C Grade,” says Ardhra.
Although disheartened, Ardhra decided to try something new and that was when she came across beatboxing. “I learnt the art on YouTube for three months. The videos of Australian beatboxer Tom Thum was an inspiration. I also followed Adarsh chettan (Adarsh ADJ), a beatboxer from Kerala,” she says. The next year she returned to the Arts Festival stage with a mix of mimicry and beatboxing. She was the state-level winner that year with an A grade and won the same the next year as well.
Ardhra, 19, now an undergraduate student at Mar Ivanios College in Thiruvananthapuram, has showcased her talent in television shows and stage programmes. She has also worked in two upcoming movies, Indrajith’s Aha and Shane Nigam’s Veyil.
“Beatboxing can be used in place of music instruments. For Aha, Sayanora chechi (Sayanora Philip, composer of the movie) recorded quite a few beatbox portions and used it in the songs. In Veyil, there is beatboxing in the title track. I am now working with Adarsh chettan in another Malayalam movie in which beatboxing has been used for the entire music section, including background music.” she says.
Anyone can learn beatboxing, Ardhra says. All one needs is dedication. While breath control is one of the key requirements in beatboxing, the art also involves the use of tongue, larynx, mouth/lips and teeth. “You don’t have to learn music to be a beatboxer. But you should have a sense of rhythm. The more you do it, the better you will be. However, learning the art can put a lot of stress on your vocal cords. There have been times when I was not able to speak for days,” she says.
She took to fluteboxing inspired by Bengaluru-based Sudhir R, India’s first fluteboxer. “Since there aren’t any women fluteboxers in the country, I thought of giving it a try. Besides flute, I also do beatboxing with harmonica and the pan flute.”
These days, she is hosting ‘Sakalakala’, a live session featuring “the stars and rising stars” on her Instagram page (@ardhrasj). “There are a lot of talented people looking for a platform to perform. I didn’t get enough support initially. I want to give everyone an opportunity and so I include dancers, musicians, mimicry artistes and the like in these sessions.”