Sunday, 31 August 2014

Bigg Taj - some notes from the Glasgow School (the artists reply, v)

Big Taj is too much of an individual to be an example of anything. A beat-boxer who has collaborated with Indian dancers (I first met him when he was warming up for this at Dance Base, a tall man making odd noises in the cafe), he has crossed boundaries to be part of theatre productions, turns up at cabaret nights to rock the house, and even arrived at the recent National Festival of Youth Theatre to essay his signature mix of good natured banter and complicated beats.

If his style is too eclectic to easily define, his popularity isn't. Despite coming from a hip-culture that is often tough and macho, Taj has a charm and gentility that belies his talent. He can stand up alongside the rapper (Bram E. Gieben, himself no mean performer, said Taj 'is one of the UK's most respected beatboxers,' and that his sets are a 'technically audacious showcase that takes in everything from soul and house to dubstep.'

Taj's thoughts on Glasgow, however, help to clarify his influences. 'I feel that my whole beatbox style is influenced by Glasgow,' he says. 'When I look back to when I started beatboxing all I ever listened to was hip hop: the gigs I went to were hip hop, those nights were bigger than Drum and Bass nights.' 

He sees this as a stark contrast to other people working in similar areas.  'If you look at the London beatboxers, they had a more mixed style - like Grime, DnB and hip hop.  Those were the styles that were popular down there, but those genres to me were not as accessible in Glasgow. My style was then moulded by the sounds I heard around me.'

Despite his ubiquity in the performance scene - and in working with young people (again, his time with Ankur) - he clearly feels a strong connection to other Scottish rappers. 'I think most of us in the hip hop scene share the same passion and goals as each other,' he notes, before reflecting on how that impacted on their national presence. 'It used to be quite difficult for scottish rappers to make a mark due to the accent. I feel this has changed lately, but we had to put in more work to get us heard. That is what links us all.'

Nevertheless, when pushed to define his art, Taj describes it in terms that go beyond any particular genre: 'I'm always looking for that something that leaves people in awe, something that breaks down barriers and also opens eyes and ears. Something educational and fun, a different perspective.'

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