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Girl Fest Interview

Jason Tom featured in an exclusive interview for November's edition of Girl Fest Hawaii's monthly e-zine, "What's Going On." Sign up for the Girl Fest newsletter here.

Our Conscious Brothers
An Interview with Jason Tom
The "Human Beatbox"

Girl Fest loves its conscious brothers in the community working to equalize gender disparities between men and women as well as boys and girls. That's why we jumped at the chance to interview local Hip-Hop artist Jason Tom aka the "Human Beatbox." You may have seen him on stage busting out sounds that normally come out of machines, but you may not know that he also teaches his art to girls and boys-- not to mention he's our kind of man against violence!

GFH: Where did you grow up, what do you do (your passion), and who were your influences?

JT: I grew up in Honolulu's Chinatown on the island of Oahu since the early 80s. I believe we are the agents of change. Bay Area California beatboxer Elaine Chao indirectly influenced me to get into the beatbox performing after I caught her 2003 Showtime At The Apollo performance on television. My biggest beatbox influence to date is Rahzel. We met at the International Human Beatbox Convention in the Big Apple and I was at a complete loss for words.

GFH: You teach downtown. Please give details and highlight some girls you teach, if possible.

JT: I opened up the Human Beatbox Academy at the ArtSmith on Smith Street across from Little Village restaurant. Class is every Wednesday from 3:30pm-6:15pm and we welcome all ages and genders. The first class is free. My youngest [student] was 4-year-old Tinkerbell. Her older brother Chase was my most enthused student. Maylene is my current regular female student and she picks it up well. Her tempo is great and she's creative with the curriculum taught. 

Working with my students from scratch is exciting because they progress and develop and grow with the art of beatboxing. On occasion they even perform with me on stage. In 2010 my youngest was 7-year-old Pele when I taught at the Diverse Art Center on Queen Street and she had a lot of fun. Female enrollment for beatboxing was at a high [then], too.

I think some might have an impression that beatboxing is a guy thing. Some parents say they want to enroll their son but do not think it is for their daughter. As I mentioned, Elaine Chao ( influenced me to get into performing after seeing her rock the stage beatboxing on TV. I think if it weren't for her I do not think I would be performing as soon as I did as a beatboxer.

GFH: What kinds of things do you promote as an artist. What's important to you?

Expression, communication, encouragement, education, literacy, languages, tapping into creative outlets, perseverance, play, travel, the arts, faith, fashion, and [teaching] our youth. I believe that a teacher's number one priority and objective is to take initiative to be a leader of his or her community and positively impacting our generation. [Teachers] also should also value the students overall well being and concerned about their environment. Sexual harassment and domestic violence against women concern me. Human nature concerns me-- how people attack one another either verbally, physically or passive aggressively. Bullying and adult bullying at work is also a serious issue.

GFH: What do you know about the roots of hip-hop and how do you feel about how the Hip-Hop genre has changed?

JT: There is a lot I don't know that I'm consistently learning. Hip-Hop is recognized as having "four pillars" in the arts of writing (aerosol art), deejaying, b-boying/b-girling, and emceeing. There are also other elements that play into the culture such as knowledge, beatboxing, fashion, etc.

As with any art or culture, Hip-Hop evolves for the better, for the worse, and in between. There is a watered-down version that degrades and objectifies women in a light that does not honor females. However, I don't think Hip-Hop is to blame. "Mainstream media" is to blame for degrading our younger generation with messages to dumb them down-- distracting us away from the truth and good news. Hip-Hop that uplifts a community, with lyrical content of depth and substance at its core, still exists. There are Hip-Hop jams today that strive to stay true to Hip-Hop culture and I highly recommend it for anyone to check events like these out. ***

Jason with his hanai little brother, bringing up the next gen!

Girl Fest also recommends you check Jason's classes out at:
The Human Beatbox Academy (of the ArtSmith)
1116 Smith Street, #215
Honolulu, HI 96817

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