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AMIN Interview

April 13, 2010 at 04:39PM

A few weeks ago I did an interview with May Pang's Asian Media Internet News (AMIN) journalist Maimounah Masudi. I share my story along with my experiences with opening for Quest Crew, the Jabbawockeez, Michael Winslow, and my awe-inspiring experience at the International Secret Agents concerts in 2009. Click below image for the complete interview:



Hawaii is known as one of the most beautiful places on earth. I dream of going there one day to walk its beaches and experience the wonderful culture. Hawaii is more than surfing, bright floral shorts, spam musubi, hula dancing, and ukuleles. There is a music culture in Hawaii that is pioneered by hot and vibrant artists that for the most part don’t reach the ears of those on the mainland. I recently did an interview with one of Hawaii’s awesome music artists, human beatboxer Jason Tom. He has performed live with local artists such as Jake ShimabukuroKamuela KahoanoPimpbotKings of Spade, and more.





Mai: Jason, please tell us about where you’re from and where you grew up.

Jason: I’m from the Hawaiian island of Oahu, and I grew up in Honolulu’s Chinatown. My ancestors are from Zhongshan, China. I also lived in Northern California when I was two to three years old before moving back to Honolulu for K-12 schooling.

Mai: What made you want to become a human beat boxer?

Jason: All credit goes to God for his inspiration, image, and guidance.

Mai: Who is your musical influence?

Jason: The late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. At the age of four I vocally imitated Michael Jackson song “Bad.” I wanted to play the song “Bad” even though I didn’t have the record or single. I recorded myself on an audio cassette tape scatting the melody of the rhythm while simultaneously doing an inward k snare (to generate a pulse to the rhythm) with my tongue (my first beatbox technique) and I sang the chorus simultaneously at the same time. I’d hit playback as though to hear the actual record. That was back in 1987.

Mai: When did you start performing?

Jason: I’m a late bloom performer and I didn’t start performing the beatbox until my first semester back at Kapiolani Community College (KCC) in fall 2004. I was 21 going on 22 then.

Growing up in Honolulu I didn’t notice any local artist that beatboxed as his or her main thing, and so I didn’t know such a thing as beatboxing could be performed. Looking back in time in 1997 my high school classmate Jess Navarrete overheard me beatboxing in class and at that time I still didn’t know of the term “beatbox.” He thought I was a radio and due to his reaction it dawned on me for the first time that beatboxing is something unique.

Then in 2003 I saw an Asian American vocal percussionist by the name of Elaine Chao on television, and she performed the beatbox on an episode for the Showtime at the Apollo. She inspired me to entertain the thought of performing the beatbox. I then transitioned from judo to going back to college to beatboxing.

Mai: What kind of transitions did you go through?

Jason: By early 2004 I decided to quit judo after an automobile accident and go back to college to take care of unfinished business. Prior to that I dreaded school and I struggled all throughout my academic career from K-12 to my early college semesters. However, after my success with judo during my break I felt determined to overcome something I was weak in, and that meant reentering the academic arena. Then during my first semester back I also began to perform beatboxing at open mics while earning my first academic 4.0 grade point average. Each year I had a specific goal with beatboxing, and I would go back to the drawing board to map out a blueprint.
I also explored HawaiiSlam’s First Thursdays poetry slam scene and that was my first home as a beatboxer. Continuing to pursue my academic career while beatboxing on the side I graduated from KCC as a first generation college student by fall 2007 in Liberal Arts. It was quite exciting to realize that I’ve accomplished something I didn’t think I could finish.

Mai: What did you do after graduating from KCC?

Jason: During that final semester at KCC I co-enrolled in the MELE program as a Music Business major at Honolulu Community College (HCC) in partnership with Belmont University’s Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business (CEMB). That is an academic program I had dreamed of enrolling in for a long time and that was the first semester that program was offered.
Then in late 2008 I re-accepted Jesus Christ into my life. That was when I knew I had a bigger purpose in life and had found true meaning for my existence. By that time I’ve also established a following among some from the American Sign Language (ASL) and deaf community. I want to thank Dana, Annie, Matthew, and more for their support!

Mai: Takes us through one of your typical days.

Jason: I live each day atypically. I love the behind-the-scenes process (prayer, bookings, press, communicate goals, practice, songwriting & composing, etc.) as well as performing. I teach beatboxing at workshops, reach out to communities, and visit schools. I also perform on the Music With A Message® tour with the non-profit organization American Lung Association of Hawaii. I want to thank my musician friend Shayla Kaai for referencing me, because the message is close to my heart.

I also want to thank Debbie Odo, the 808 BreakersJalee FuselierChris Gilbert, and more for their support as well!

Mai: What favorite artist of yours would you love to perform with?

Jason: I have a show coming up with Junior Kekuewa Jr., and I look forward to that. I’m also currently in talks to collaborate with some breakdancers. I enjoy performing with slack key guitaristMakana. If he were still alive, Michael JacksonMC Jin, without a doubt. Bobby McFerrin, because of his spontaneous improvisational vocal genius. Japan’s human beatbox AfraThe Far East Movement (FM) would be fun to jam with too. I also like Ne-Yo’s music. I’d love to perform with Ahn Trio. I’d love to jam with Michael Winslow. I’m open to collaboration.

Mai: What are your favorite activities to do when you’re not performing?

Jason: I love to read! I also love to hike and spend time with friends. I’d love to do more travel.

Mai: I hear that the people of Hawaii have a completely different culture there. Can you explain in detail what kind of culture it is and how it contrasts/compares to the mainland culture?

Jason: From my perspective I think the funkiest culture out there today is the online culture, because of the online dynamics that exist in the digital landscape. It’s a different animal to the dynamics of the offline world. I also think it’s a wonderful way to communicate across the globe with others, and thanks to the online world I was able to find resources on beatboxing. Speaking of the Hawaii culture in contrast to the mainland culture, there are differences, but there are more similarities than differences in my opinion. Mainlanders often say to me that Hawaii people are really nice, but then again there are mainlanders who are really nice as well.

Mai: How did you come about starting your human beat box workshops and what do they entail?

Jason: Since early 2009 I intended to take action about a lack of a Hawaii beatbox community, because throughout the other parts of the globe beatboxing is HUGE! It’s something I was passionate about since 2004, but I didn’t have the tools to go about it then. I knew from HawaiiSlam’s example that having a community of an art form is possible. I then allowed myself a minimum of five years to see where beatboxing could potentially go.

Then later 2009 I was invited by the Word of Life Christian Center to perform for an Emerge event at the Diverse Art Center. That was during the time I bumped into my then to be clothing sponsorFreelance Clothing Worldwide for a second time, and I met Niki Kealoha of Diverse Art Center. I took note of the classes offered there and it had hit me.

So the start of 2010 was when I began to facilitate human beatbox workshops formally at the Diverse Art Center. There were naysayers as well as supporters prior to the start of it. It entailed a vision, manpower, consistency, and follow through to make it happen. In the first two months I had about 21 unique beatbox class students, which was unheard of in Hawaii. I would say about four or less are regulars. It takes a lot of work to spark a real interest for it since it’s not as known of an art form in Hawaii. I continue to keep the faith.

Mai: How did you feel about opening up for America’s Best Dance Crew Season 3 winners Quest Crew?

Jason: It felt good since that show took place at the auditorium of my alma mater McKinley High School, and it’s awesome that people from that show still approach me about it. What’s rad is that they recognized that I did a beatbox rendition of Far East Movement hit Girls On The Dance Floor. I did that to tie it in with Quest Crew since they appeared in the FM Dance Like Michael Jackson music video produced by Wong Fu Productions. I had met members of FM and Wong Fu Productions last year at the International Secret Agents (ISA) concerts in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Later that same year I opened for the Jabbawockeez and Michael Winslow. Opening for Michael Winslow was my biggest show to date, because he is also highly regarded in the human beatbox community.

Mai: How was your experience at ISA?

Jason: Both ISA San Francisco 09 and ISA Los Angeles 09 were an amazing experience. One of the coolest parts was meeting MC Jin at ISA SF. ISA was a concert experience I’ve not experienced before. The fans in the mainland are very supportive of their favorite artists and acts. It’s awe-inspiring.

Mai: Who is your biggest influence in your life?

Jason: My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Mai: Rice or noodles?

Jason: Rice for the win.

Mai: What are your future plans?

Jason: Wherever God takes me I’ll flow. I’d love to write a book. Speaking of books I am currently in talks about booking an event for as far ahead as November 2010, but I have to continue to work hard since I know I still have obstacles as an artist. There are big opportunities coming, but it’s way early at the moment for me to say. Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen I’ll continue to work hard to follow my passion. Thank you Maimounah and AMIN-Asian Media Internet News for this interview.

Visit Jason at Jason Tom and on Facebook

Check out Jason performing live at the World of Life Talent Show
 

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Good job homie! Keep doing you! And keep up the good work!!

Hey, sharp! Can’t wait for the episode. Pretty stoked to see what you do there. My friend’s @hi sessions are so dope. Glad they brought you on!

Cheers!

Hey Jason,
Glad to see you still performing! Keep up the good work! Hopefully, you'll come back to the Bay area soon!

love the caption "Her math tutor can dance". :)

What a beautiful tribute to your dad! He must be so proud of you. Thank you for your labor of love to your students and to the community.

Happy labor day,
Interesting read.

Jason you are awesome, so focused and committed to your craft and compelled to share and educate others. Human Beatbox Academy?!?! WHAT!?! Amazing, I didn't even know. Keep it up, look forward to our future encounters my friend.

Amazing performance of dance using sound and body. Your have an amazing flow.
Keep sharing that talent of yours!

Yup bro yu are awesome as I am big fan of beat box and yu ar beatboxer as I am fan of yu tool.

That was amazing!!! Beatboxing and doing the moonwalk at the same time!!! Mind-blown dude!

Amazing job. proud of yah bud. keep it up

Way to go my friend! So proud of you Jason!!!

I'm so glad I got to see you perform Jason! You were awesome!

Dawg u get um no worries keep doin wut u love braddah

It was great seeing you perform and meeting new people.

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Child of the 1980's and child of God, #JasonTom, Hawaiʻi's Human Beatbox, is a mathematician moonwalker who sings music with his voice. #jasontomblog

So great to reunite with Angela Keen! Tonight, I had an honor to volunteer my time at Shriner's Hospital with Prisma Dance as we cheered the young patients there up. I beatboxed and danced for them and offered beatbox lessons. They rocked the microphone and all. They were incredible! I loved every moment, especially when one of the patients in his wheelchair rocked the beatboxing on my microphone and my dance buddy Henry danced to his beatboxing. That was something I had not seen in all 13 of my years performing live. It was rewarding to see their smiles and the patients enjoying himself and herself. All of the dancers did great too from ballet, jazz, acrobatics to hip hop, and our dance contest. I loved it all!

As for Angela Keen, growing up in Honolulu I watched her as a news anchor and I didn't think then that she'd one day interview me at the First Inaugural TEDx Honolulu Conference years back. She asked me great questions. She also knows my good friend Jody Kamisato and I told her he said, \
Spent quality time performing music, dance, and sharing words of edification, encouragement, honor, praise, desserts, and prayers with Prisma Dance to our brave and strong American veterans at US Vets in Barber's Point Kapolei last week. Here Hiro and I improvised on our viola and beatbox collaboration. We had blessed time.

PC: Brian Bat
I want to thank those of you who inbox'd me and inquired about my Hisessions shoot. My Hi Sessions episodes is in post production. I had a great time shooting with the Hi Sessions team. I just followed up with them and heard my episodes could launch December of this year or January of next year. People who have written shared with me that they can't wait and are buzzing about it right at this moment. Me too. Very exciting. Stay plugged in! I will keep you posted!
First Inaugural Rock The School Bells Hawaii Conference at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Campus. Dance, breakdance and beatbox workshop! What? Yes!

Other workshops included the dj and producer workshop, emcee and rap workshop, writing and aerosol canvas art workshop.
I am grateful and blessed to have an honor to have volunteered my time with Prisma Dance and to have performed for, converse with and pray for our brave and strong American veterans at US Vets in Barber's Point Kapolei last week. I am grateful to our American veterans for having served our great and beautiful nation.

2017 is wrapping up. What a fruitful year 2017 is. The biggest loss was when I lost my father on this Father's Day. I've honored my father's last wishes for what he wants and wanted me to fulfill in life. I am also working on another one of his final wish for me. My father didn't make it for his 85th birthday. There is not a day I don't think of my father or miss him. Father God has shown my earthly father at his best in my visions and dreams since his passing on multiple occasions that brought great comfort and peace.

Staying productive with the beatboxing....
I've performed for and spoken at...
- Bboy Reunion at Pure Nightclub
- First Friday at Downbeat Lounge
- Rising Melody at Downbeat Lounge
- Kick Butts Day at Hawaii State Capitol
- Revive Christian Fellowship at Iolani School
- Friday Night Flow at Inspire Church Waikele
- Boy Scouts at Iolani School
- Skillz Talk at Pure Nightclub
- Hawaii Baptist Academy
- Sung a song dedicated to my father & spoke at my father's funeral
- 1212 Session Hawaii at Kewalo Basin Kakaako .
- Hawaii Baptist Academy
- Prisma Dance Summer Intensive II
- 6th Annual Pacific Ink & Art Expo at Neal Blaisdell Cente
- Uplift at Ala Moana Centerstage .
- 2nd Annual Taste of Chinatown at the Smith Beretania Park .
- HI Sessions Shoot .
- 3rd Annual Moon Festival at Chinatown Cultural Plaza Moongate St .
- US Vets at Barber's Point Kapolei .
- First Inaugural Rock The School Bells Hawaii Conference at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

I will perform for a hospital and high school reunion party next week. I am grateful to be booked 'til December 2018 as my work is far from done and I am always working on music with my voice called beatboxing. I will meet with clients in the coming weeks to discuss potential tours, endeavors, performances, projects, and what not.

PC: Nicole Lam
First Inaugural Rock The School Bells Hawaii Conference at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Campus.
B-girl Yoda and I choreographed with students from Kalaukaua Middle and Farrington High School the First Inaugural Rock The School Bells Hawaii Conference Student Showcase Finale at the University of Hawaii at Manoa Campus Center. Students shared that they really enjoyed how interactive my combined workshop with B-girl Yoda was.. Yoda taught the foundation for breakdancing/b-girling/b-boying dance moves while I taught the foundation for beatboxing and popping slides and glides.

Big mahalo goes out to Freelance Brand, b-girl Yoda, UH Manoa, Diverse Art Center, Rock the School Bells, and all the students and teachers.

VC: Gale on the West Side
This weekend b-girl Yoda invited me to break down the foundation and history of the hip hop element of beatboxing and its relevance to the culture of hip hop in this workshop for the First Inaugural Rock The School Bells Hawaii Conference at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Students have shared that they enjoyed how interactive our combined workshop with b-girl Yoda and I at the Rock the School Bells Hawaii Conference was. B-girl Yoda also invited me to speak at her UH Manoa Hip Hop Literature Class last semester.

I want to thank Freelance Brand, b-girl Yoda, East-3, UH Manoa, Rock the School Bells, Diverse Art Center, and all of the students and teachers.

PC: Gale on the West Side
This weekend b-girl Yoda invited me to co-teach the dance and breakdancing workshop for the First Inaugural Rock the School Bells Hawaii at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. During spring semester, b-girl Yoda invited me to guest speak at her UH Manoa Hip Hop Literature class. This routine combines beatboxing (music with the voice) and dance to perform Billie Jean by Michael Jackson. This was demonstrated for students of Dole Middle School, Kalaukaua Middle School and Farrington High School.

These students then took what they learned from b-girl Yoda and myself and they used it for their student showcase at the Rock the School Bells Hawaii Finale. I want to thank g-girl Yoda, Freelance Brand, East-3, UH Manoa, Rock the School Bells, Diverse Art Center, all of the teachers and students.

VC: Gale on the West Side