Produced, edited and filmed by Marcus Ribeiro ’23
John “Galush” Galusha ’20, of the Bowdoin Meddiebempsters, dominates the beatboxing scene on campus. In addition to double majoring in music and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, he has competed in multiple beatboxing championships nationwide. Galusha aspires to continue to make his mark in this relatively new, quickly growing arena as both a performer and researcher in the field.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Bowdoin Orient: How did you get into beatboxing?
Galusha ’20: The way to get into it is to go online, find some videos [and] find some people, because at the end of the day, beatboxers really are just people. I got involved by taking the next step, diving down the rabbit hole and going from a video to an actual in-person experience. I found a concert by The Beatbox House in Brooklyn, met some people and then I was so hooked. I’ve been on this journey ever since—meeting the actual people, seeing the way they do it and where it comes from and the artists that are really pushing the boundary on it.
Q: What’s it like beatboxing at Bowdoin?
A: I’m very much the expert on the subject at this institution. I think it’s very much a privileged position to be in while I’m here. I’m able to tie everything into my academics and build a degree that suits my interests, [combining] creative artistry and cultural analysis … At every turn, I have pretty much endeavored to prove the validity of beatboxing as an academic subject. I’ve really strived to incorporate beatboxing from an educational, intellectual, artistic and creative perspective and vantage point into all of the work that I do here.
Q: How has the College supported your beatboxing career?
A: There’s the institutional support given through departmental fellowships, or student research funding, which I’ve been really fortunate to be awarded pretty much anytime I needed it. I’ve made [the] most of the pre-existing opportunities here to go off campus and to learn more about something that I’m interested in, but I’ve also had to create a bit of an extra space here for myself.
I did an intermediate independent study in the music department my sophomore year [about beatbox music and culture]. That really laid the initial groundwork around how I’m going to be thinking about this music and what it means to be doing what I’m doing. It gave me no [real] answers, but it gave me a lot of great questions. [I also] did two semesters of “Issues in Hip Hop” with [Associate Professor of Music] Tracy McMullen [and am working on an] honors project about the relationship between beatboxing and a capella music. My time with the Meddiebempsters has definitely informed a lot of my thinking around that.
Q: How do you decide what music to make or perform?
A: The challenge is to be digestible, to be new and to push the boundaries without going too far. I want to balance doing [what] musically just sounds good and is totally digestible [and] understandable with [what] challenges me technically and intellectually. This results in music that is personally meaningful and is still a good show at the end of the night.
Q: What’s your creative process? How do you balance spontaneity with pre-planned routines?
A: There’s definitely a value to being laissez-faire with how it all comes out on stage. I don’t want to get too focused on just reproducing exactly the same thing every time. But in front of a judge, I’m going to be totally nailing my routine. I’ll have it practiced to be exactly the same thing every time—it’s pre-planned and not as spontaneous. I’d say that when I’m a solo beatboxer, it’s a mixture of just doing something for fun, seeing where it goes [and] being free. Finding ways to leave yourself space to improvise with something new and exciting is really important.
Q: How can a beginner get into beatboxing?
A: Everyone can [beatbox] and learn about where it comes from and contribute to the more musically literate and expressive culture that I hope the beatboxing community can build. The basic thing that it comes down to is your human voice and it’s what you’re doing with it that can be artistic and creative as much as it can be destructive and hateful. The teaching and understanding of the history and culture of this particular art form can be really insightful for the ways that people express themselves and communicate in this fast-paced, dynamic music and digital society.
Q: How will you continue beatboxing after Bowdoin?
A: I’m looking into some graduate school programs because I think the academic merits of beatboxing are really huge. I’ve worked very hard on setting that precedent and contributing what I can to the academic literary canon that I hope to create for beatboxing and I certainly want to continue that work and allow it to grow and develop into bigger projects. So [I plan on] continuing to further understand and document the history of this art form to make more informed decisions about how to be more inclusive and diverse [in the beatboxing] community. I’m looking at ways to get more people involved with the educational spheres that I can make an impact in, and I’ll obviously still be making music.