Beatboxing monk keeps the faith in hard times


Offbeat outreach: Akasaka performing a beatboxing livestream session at his home in Tokyo. — AFP

Tokyo: The music grows gradually: first a snare drum-like beat, then a throaty drone layered on top, followed by high-pitched humming.

And then the monk begins to chant the heart sutra.

The musical experience is the work of Yogetsu Akasaka, a Japanese musician and Buddhist monk who has become a viral phenomenon with tracks marrying religious chanting with beatboxing.

His Heart Sutra Looping Remix, featuring the 37-year-old dressed in the formal robes worn by Buddhist monks at funerals, has been viewed on YouTube over half a million times since it was posted in May.

The seven-minute video, which was filmed in a studio, shows Akasaka layering sounds via a Loopstation beatbox device and chanting the religious text on top.

The idea came to him during the state of emergency in Japan over the Covid-19 pandemic, when both his work as a musician and a monk overseeing funeral and memorial services dried up.

“It was all cancelled. So I had no job, I had no income.

“And to me, it was really a pain, but at the same time, I thought it was a really good opportunity to think about myself or to think about the future of Buddhism,” he said.

Akasaka has long been interested in both music and religion.

In Japan, it is not uncommon for monks to fulfil religious duties and maintain a non-religious career, like Akasaka’s work as a musician.

Recently he has organised livestreaming sessions of his music, soliciting donations to help see him through the pandemic. — AFP

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