Tuesdays are mostly meh, which is why my colleague Pallavi and I decided to jazz up yesterday by ordering a couple of Pain au Chocolats—it’s December so, you know, FTS. Pallavi was getting coffee (ICYMI: croissant and coffee go together like Kanye and Kanye) when she heard a beatboxing tune behind her. She turned to find a smiling young chap in a white shirt and red bow-tie dishing it out. This is the fun of working at a co-working space which houses the VICE India HQs; you never know who will sneak up behind you at the coffee machine, cracking out some sick sounds from their larynx.
Turns out, Immanuel Ronald D’costa as he was christened, was in the building for a freelance gig, serving coffee to those attending an event on a floor above. The second year Hotel Management student and a certified bartender from bartending academy Cocktail & Dreams, also moonlights as a rap artist and beatboxer. Which means that what’s more potent than the drinks he stirs up is the beatboxing and rap that accompany the process. “I was doing it [beatboxing] subconsciously once when mixing a drink for a lady at an event, and she really enjoyed it,” he tells VICE. “I do feel passion and career are two different things, but this way maybe I can do both. After all, both are often about storytelling and mash-ups of different ingredients.”
D’costa lives in Nalasopara, a town within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. The distant suburb has quietly harboured an underground movement filled with hip-hop collectives, B-boy crews, beatboxers, graffiti artists, and emcees. The Kings United dance group (the first Indian team to win a medal at the World Hip Hop Championship, 2015), reality show-winning dance group V Company, and hip hop collective Bombay Lokal first drew attention to the art forms coming out from here, all talking about socio-political issues their neighbourhoods faced. D’costa’s rap lyrics, for example, range from talking about the menace of idol worship to the evils of addiction to killing humans to save a cow.
“It started when I was in tenth standard and was watching Kick Buttowski,” he says. “There is a character in there, Gunther, who would rap and beatbox. I started making beatboxing sounds on my own, and then met some Bombay Lokal guys at a college festival, who liked my flow and taught me how to make it clearer. When I was in school, I would write rhymes just to make fun of people. Things like:
Har baat pe roti.
Then I realised I could do more with it all, and add meaning to the poetry.”
D’costa then goes on to tell me how the Screwdriver (the cocktail) actually got its name from when the American petroleum engineers in Saudi Arabia secretly added vodka to small cans of orange juice and in the absence of a spoon, stirred their drinks with screwdrivers. “I’ve always loved stories, and now I can tell my own too.”
D’costa and a motley bunch of dancers meet up in their neighbourhood daily and instead of merely chilling, the dancers perform impromptu routines to his freestyle beats. That is, if he is done with his college work and doesn’t have a freelance gig to bartend or work at to earn some pocket money. His dream? “I want to win a bartending competition, and be the youngest one ever to do it. But I will always have my hip-hop along too. Hip-hop is truth, and truth doesn’t have any barriers.”
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