Celebrity traveler: Shodekeh's musical treks
Baltimore beatboxer enjoys relaxing amid mountains of Boulder, Colo.
Baltimore beatboxer Shodekeh performs at the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, Colo. (Photo courtesy of John Hurd, Baltimore Sun / March 15, 2012)
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The Baltimore-based beatboxer and vocal percussionist performs in a multitude of genres and music domains, including dance and the visual arts. By channeling the concepts of musical instruments and soundscapes, he vocalizes dynamic emulations of everything; drum sets, turntables, ocean waves, sleigh bells. Shodekeh is the founding director of "Embody, A Music Series of The Vocal Arts," which strives for artistic and cultural unity through the vocal traditions of the world, ranging from opera to beatboxing.
Shodekeh said he immerses himself in local communities wherever he performs. He prefers staying at a home or at a university, rather than a hotel, to take in the local vibe. We caught up with him in between global appearances, to hear about the places and people that have inspired him.
Do you have a favorite music destination?
My music brings me to a lot of extraordinary places. But I've been traveling back and forth to Boulder, Colo., since 2008, and just love it. It's really beautiful out there; so inspiring. The mountains — they are so unreal, they look like paintings.
What do you do in Boulder?
Music. [On his last visit,] I was doing a music residency at Naropa University to promote an upcoming concert with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. It's a piece titled "Deadlock," written by Ruby Fulton of Baltimore. The piece is about a chess game that becomes deadlocked between the two opposing kings. I provide a distinctive beat for each of the six chess pieces: pawn, knight, bishop, rook, king and queen. As the game unfolds, the beats trade off with the "orchestral translations," interacting whenever a piece is captured. Essentially, you can follow the whole game by listening to the concert.
What else do you do when you are there?
We went hiking in the foothills around Boulder; it is just so serene and peaceful. I had taken some anxiety with me about some other projects coming up here in Baltimore, but you just look at those mountains, and you think, "Shut up. Don't worry about anything." It made me think if you are that worried about your problems, it's probably your ego getting in the way, and there are so many things bigger than you are out there. I tried to bring some of that back to Baltimore and find moments of peace with it. I've developed a good relationship with the community in Boulder. I don't know if there is any place like it. The people in that town, they don't lock their front doors, you know? That doesn't happen here in Baltimore.
When did you first visit Boulder?
In 2008 I was a panelist and speaker at the Conference of World Affairs. I've attended for several years and really gotten to know the people and places in the area.
Where do you like to eat around Boulder?
Sushi Zanmei is real good. I also had a buffalo burger for the first time. That was an interesting experience — and buffalo steak, kinda chewy, not like regular steak.
Where do you usually stay?
This past time I stayed in a Quality Inn. It was really nice: heated pool, hot tub. When I went to the conference, they partnered each panelist with a member of the community to lodge with their family so the kids get exposure to whatever you have expertise in. I did that several years in a row. One family had a son who is a DJ, so we had a really great time together, spinning some cool stuff. Another time, my host family invited another family over, and their kids were musical prodigies — really fun! So I've gotten to know the people in Boulder, not just those involved with the institutions, and made some good connections.
Where else has your music taken you?
The American Dance Festival at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Durham is laid-back and chill. The Duke Gardens are gorgeous; don't take a lady there unless you want to get into trouble (too romantic). Some of the best Southern food — fried chicken — I've ever eaten was at The Know [a now-defunct bookstore/cafe specializing in African-American literature].
I just came back from New York City, where I did a remix for [composer] Meredith Monk. It's a hustle-bustle kind of place.
Oh, and Lithuania, in Vilnius — the capital. I did a residency organized by the U.S. Embassy there, titled "The American Month of Culture." The idea was to introduce something from the United States that represents our culture. I performed with the traditional Lithuanian folk singers. Lithuania has gorgeous women; they all look like they're on their way to a modeling session. The food is great; I loved the pickled herring. In one restaurant, we ordered pig ears! They serve these really tall beer bottles that have a tap at the bottom — whew [laughs]; that's just WRONG! We were sitting outside and it was kind of windy, so they brought us blankets and wrapped us up and were just hanging out all wrapped up … just be in the moment — have a blanket! Got to visit the KGB Museum, pretty freaky stuff. I learned a couple of words: he'lev is hello, aciu [pronounced ah-choo] is thank you, vien alus is one beer.