As far as arts go, beat-boxing gets far less praise than other genres in the performing arts. Before Takudzwa Denzel Mashonganyika aka Probeatz started out, no known professionals had come out of Harare, let alone any to represent the country on a global stage.
That all changed last month when Probeatz was one of three local performers who delighted audiences and judges at the Wold Championship of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in the USA, collectively bringing home 15 medals and winning a scholarship to study in the United States.
Probeatz will spend a month at Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles on a scholarship worth $10,000 later on this year. Harare News caught up with Probeatz – who hails from Mufakose – to find out more about him and his art.
When did you start beat boxing?
I started in 2009. I was inspired by my love for music. I couldn’t afford an mp3 player so I started learning how to imitate my favourite songs.
What constitutes your stage work?
Well, I normally showcase cover songs but I have started venturing into story telling as I grow as an entertainer. I tell real life stories, fiction, and do stand-up comedy. I get inspiration from current affairs and my own life journey as a kid who grew up in the ghetto but who is also as an artist on a journey.
What are the challenges you have faced and how did you manage to overcome them?
I have faced criticism from people that compare me with international beat-boxers. They say what I do is a waste of time because the industry is too small. I also struggled to find financial support and equipment. But I was resilient in perfecting my art using what I have.
What are your greatest achievements?
My greatest achievements are winning the national Dreamstar competition 2015, winning Starbrite in 2012, receiving an accolade for being the Best Zim Hip Hop Ambassador in 2015, and touring Europe, Asia, and America. Most recently I won eight medals at this year’s WCOPA in Los Angeles, California.
But for me my greatest achievement is making a huge impact using my art in Zimbabwe. Working with Jibilika in positive attitude campaigns like Step Up to HIV, has really had an impact on me as an artist. I have come to understand that it’s not just about being on stage but setting a positive example in the community as an artist.
You have travelled to many countries with your art. What impact has that had on you?
I learnt that art is also a job after all, and how to invest in my future as an artist.
Successfully representing Zimbabwe at WCOPA and bagging eight awards is a big deal. How was the experience?
When we got to the championships, we were one of three countries that had a small number (four) of contestants out of the 62 countries that attended. Each country had at least 20 artists and a maximum of 60. At first I felt really intimidated but when show time came, we took the audience by surprise. We gained so much confidence from the audience cheers. It felt like I was part of a winning soccer team. That confidence carried me through the competition.
As a young artist, what do you aspire to?
To see myself and others grow as artists. It is my hope that initiatives and companies start to invest more in the potential they see in artists, rather than in already polished acts. I personally want to see beat-boxing grow in Zimbabwe in the same way that Zimdancehall grew. I understand it’s a process and I am on the move to make things happen.
Any advice for aspiring beat boxers?
Beat-boxing is not music but it’s a form of art that comes from within. You’ve got to love it before it loves you back, and most of all, keep practicing and do your research!
Check out Probeatz here:
Image Credit: Plot Mhako