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Songs from the belly

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Bauchklang hopes to find a woman in India who wants to beatbox.

A five-man vocal groove collective from Vienna, Bauchklang - which means belly sound - beguile audiences with nothing more than a microphone and their vocal chords. Beatboxing (a form of vocal percussion which primarily involves producing drum beats, rhythm and musical sounds using one's mouth, lips, tongue and voice) their way through songs that cover reggae, hip-hop, minimal and dubstep, it doesn't take long for crowds to pick their jaws off the floor and start grooving.

"Sure we manage to shock people but we're not a circus act, " Philipp Sagedar, who's been with the band since 2006, tells TOI-Crest. "It's one thing to impress people but at the end of the day, it's your music that people take home with them. "

Apart from their obvious vocal skills, music is what Bauchklang has come to be known for. "It's just our voice you know. There's no pitch correction, no autotune. Just some reverse reverbs and compressions, " says Sagedar.

In the 13 years that Bauchklang has existed, the group has four albums to its credit with a fifth one to be released in early 2013. The boys began more as an 'a capella' (singing without instrumental sound) group. It wasn't until they were themselves playing at a big club in Vienna alongside DJs spinning dance music that they found themselves gravitating towards that sound. "It was such a rush, " Sagedar says.

"That's when we decided to adapt that style, groove and rhythm in our music, " he says of the group's evolution. Though they may have more than 12, 000 fans on Facebook today, the going wasn't too easy. Beatboxing wasn't an established genre as it is now. Today, Miss Universe-pageant contestants beatbox in their talent round.

Beatboxing is considered to be one of the principles of hip-hop culture and when Bauchklang started, it didn't have too many original performers pushing the boundaries. "Not many realised the potential in beatboxing. Sure there were a few nice tracks but not as many as there could have been, " says Sageder. "Even when you hear most of what is happening in beatboxing today, it's just a lot of bigger, faster, stronger, harder stuff. Where's the experimentation, the unique sound?" he wonders.

Their first album Jamzero, in 2001, which got noticed in Austria, won them a spot at Transmusicales de Rennes (a showcase festival in France), where you're bound to catch the 'next big thing'. "Things changed fast after that. Requests started pouring in and we spent the next four years just touring the world, " Sageder says.

The current lineup of Alex Bck (human bass, vocal sounds), Bina (human beatbox, vocal sounds, mouthpercussions), Andi Frnzl (lead vocals, vocal sounds), Gerald Huber (vocal sounds, backing vocals, human beatbox, human bass) and Sageder (vocal sounds, mouthpercussions, backing vocals, human bass) has been together for the last seven years.

India is, of course, no stranger to Bauchklang. The Austrian collective first came here in 2008 when they performed at blueFROG, and have since done two more tours. There's yet another Indian connection : Sageder is married to a Maharashtrian and even tutors a few kids in Pune, whenever he comes a-visiting. Talking about the group's first Indian experience, Sageder says, "It was such a different environment to be in. And we got such a great reception. " Stories abound about how on their three-day tour of Mumbai, there were just a handful of people on day one, but over a thousand each turned up for their next two performances. Another one talks about how the altitude and unseasonal rain in Ladakh made them breathless, forcing them to cut short their performance.

The group comes armed with a wishlist: "We hope to see a woman who wants to beatbox. People carry this impression that only men are good at it. And yes, we'd love to collaborate with the likes of Lata Mangeshkar and Shankar Mahadevan. After all, it's all about the voice, no?'

Catch Bauchklang in Goa on Dec 9, blueFROG Mumbai on Dec 12, blueFROG Delhi on Dec 13-14, Hyderabad on Dec 15, and at Bacardi NH7 Weekender Bangalore on Dec 16

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