90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The Beatbox Cellist

A young music prodigy fuses cello and beat-boxing to create a new art form. We’ll talk with the amazing Kevin Olusola.

Kevin Olusola (YouTube)

Kevin Olusola (YouTube)

Put a cello in the hands of young Kevin Olusola and something happens that you haven’t seen from, let’s say, Yo Yo Ma.  At least not yet.  The cello sings and Olusola sings – or more accurately, he beatboxes.

He leans into cello bow and strings and let’s loose the street percussion of hip-hop, all at the same time.  Nigerian father.  Grenadan mother.  Classical music.  All-new music.  And an all-American fusion story.  He’s on a roll.

This hour, On Point: Kevin Olusola, beatbox cellist.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Kevin Olusola, a musician known as the ‘Beatbox Cellist.’ You can find numerous videos of Olusola on his YouTube channel here.

Highlights

During his sophomore year in college, while studying abroad in China, Kevin Olusola, began to merge “beatboxing” and classical cello. “It was literally a random thought,” he said. “I’ve been trying to develop it slowly and it has got me to where I am today.”

Today, he’s a Youtube sensation, known as the Beatbox Cellist. His biggest hit was a rendition of Julie-O. “I thought it was a piece that always had groove and spunk,” said Olusola, who as a younger classically trained cellist was reluctant to tackle the piece. Until one day, complete with a beatbox accompaniment “I just went for it,” he said.

He says his father couldn’t stand the beatboxing-cello combination when he first began. After several performances, he says, his dad came around. “Now I get it!” his father told him.

It wasn’t just being in China that was influential to the young musician. Learning the Chinese language made him appreciate the language of music as well. “I want to be able to express myself in a certain way that’s accessible to everybody,” he said.

He says the music for him is the pursuit of the perfect melodies that he hears in his head. “It’s the pursuit that I love, the journey that I love,” he said. “I’m just going to keep working on it.” Olusola said that he has several original composition and various collaborations with other musicians in the works.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Today Show “This morning we profiled an extraordinary young musician named Kevin Olusola. He’s incredibly talented. And sweet. But I want to bop him in the nose. ”

Video: Smooth Criminal

Check out this video of Olusola riffing on the King of Pop’s hit Smooth Criminal.

Video: Ridin’ Solo

Olusola plays Jason DeRulo’s Ridin’ Solo in this video

Video: Julie-O

Here is Olusola with his break-out YouTube hit, Julie-O.

Video: The Pentatonix

Here is a video of Olusola and his group Pentatonix.

Video: Beatboxing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony

This video shows Olusola’s take on the old master, live at Carnegie Hall.

Playlist

Variation on “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Kevin Olusola
BEAT BOX SOLO by Kevin Olusola (LIVE)
“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Pentatonix
“Dog Days Are Over” by Pentatonix
“Shoulda Known” by Jake Breune, Kevin Olusola, Frank Sacramone
JULIE-O by Kevin Olusola (LIVE)
China Song by Kevin et al.
“Don’t You Wanna Stay” by Kevin Olusola, Clara C, Jake Bruene, & Kurt Schneider
Maurice Whitney’s “Rhumba” by Kevin Olusola + Christopher O’Riley
Beatboxing Beethoven’s Fifth by Kevin Olusola
Jason Derulo’s “Ridin’ Solo” by Kevin Olusola
Void of a Legend by Antoniette Costa + Kevin Olusola

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=702128210 Glen Gorham

     This is actually very cool stuff. This is what music is all about eh? Creativity, using different takes on the same thing. Awesome.

    • Dee

      This music is uneque and for this time in life rightnow is right on to the beat of the times ..Just so cool! Thank you for having this on your show…I will be buying this music! And it will be something going into the future to be remembererd!

  • movinginva

    Grenadian, not Grenadan

  • Amanda in Rhode Island

    My family and I were riveted by this season’s “The Sing-Off” and my three daughters absolutely LOVE Kevin Olusola and Pentatonix. “Meat and Potatoes!”  Too bad they’re in school right now!  I trained as a violinist growing up and my girls are studying piano.  We are a musical family and I’m always looking to introduce them for creativity and innovation in musical styles.  I’m so grateful for Kevin’s example of integrating traditions and starting something new.  Best of all luck to you, Kevin, and thanks, Tom for featuring this rising star!

  • Chris

    You’ve GOT to be kidding me!?  That in-studio performance was mindblowing.  Drum and Bass has just found its replacement.  I’m beyond sold.

  • Patrik

    Out of all the re-hashing of music, from a lot of ‘celebrities’ that focus more on their costumes than the actual music itself, it’s refreshing to hear this type of creative music being created.  I’m glad youth havent been brainwashed by Nikki Minaj.

  • http://twitter.com/Disco_Tracy Disco_Tracy

    Does he have a CD? I just checked iTunes and nothing! Gimme more.

    • Amanda in Rhode Island

      Yes, please, I know Kevin’s work with Pentatonix is available from i-Tunes, but we’re waiting for a CD of his cello work!

  • Tina

    I started doing something like the beatboxing in about 1975 to pass the long, long hours in the car on the way to my boyfriend’s mom’s house 8 hours away.  I worked in NYC and rode the subways to my job, so I was probably hearing stuff that was early hip hop beats.  Also, I can’t sing at all, so, I did what I’ve called since “my clicking and popping”.  My hands mainly hit my legs, but my tongue makes contrapuntal (?) sounds for multiple beats.  I’m not saying that my musicality is a fraction of what Kevin’s fine talent represents, but the impetus to make multiple rhythms using the fundamental instrument (other than a singing voice), your own body, was there.  And, since I love to dance, I know that I was somewhat driven by the “look” of my own motions, so that sometimes the “dance” of it all helped me find new rhythms.  It’s only my cancer in my bones that keeps me from zoning out into this very much now.  Thanks for introducing me to this master!  Plus, his cello is extraordinary, too!  Thank you!

    • Tina

      I forgot:  another component was clicking your fingers together, on both hands, interspersed with the slapping sounds and tongue clicking rhythms.  

    • BEEZ

      Nothing new under the sun Tina! Cool story

  • Jessica

    I Love This!  I played Cello in school but never like this.  Never the less Cello is still my favorite instrument and hearing things like this makes me want to go home and play! Great work and I can’t wait to hear more.

  • Bob Falesch

    “What do you think of the cello with beatboxing? Is it a bridge too far?”

    I say: No it isn’t, and why not? 

    Nothing in music is a bridge too far nowadays. This is just a little fusion of existing mainstream elements (and we’re talking about fusing two *instruments* together, but more important, if Kevin is actually doing it, is the fusion of two styles).

    Over the last century, the big shockers in music occurred in the 1950s when people like Stockhausen began to use electronics and computers in music and felt that noise was as important and notes played on instruments, and made musical score from just four lines of prose that musicians would play from for 30 minutes.

    I enjoy Kevin and really get off on the best beatboxers, and he strikes me as one of the best. 

  • BEEZ

    Kevin,
    You have a platform to do something great and extraordinary! Someday the world will appreciate hip hop for what it is; you may be the one to do it!
    It’s very difficult to do. I try beatboxing while playing simple riffs on my guitar and even that is tough

  • Chris in MA.

    The cello, in my opinion, was already one of the most beautiful instruments and you just took it to a whole new level. Thank you and keep doing what you’re doing.

  • CINDY

    I’m 70 years old, love chamber music and classics, but this music brought a big wide smile to my face.  Thanks Kevin.

  • Laurie

    What an incredible musician and composer!! Breathtakingly beautiful performances!  I just grabbed my 12-year old son who is home sick and plays cello and he is sitting mesmerized listening to this show – cannot WAIT to find your music on itunes or wherever it is!! So exciting to discover Kevin – thank you for having him!

  • Lauramlomas

    My son plays the cello, and although he LOVES his instrument he doesn’t always love the music. I cannot wait unil he gets home so I can share this with him! What a charming, talented, amazing young man!

  • Marilyn Richardson

    Feels like one of those moments in which those of us listening this morning will all remember where we were when we first heard Kevin Olusola. 

    He lives, breathes, and performs a vision of one path into the world’s musical future.

  • Anonymous

    One word, brilliant!

    Keep it going Kevin, I can’t wait when he gets into Jazz.

     Also Dana Leong, people should check him out.

  • Anonymous

    We see an endless steam of produced, choreographed and managed acts that get rewarded with attention and riches. 

    Then along comes a musician like Kevin: In one measure he brought a smile to me my face and I began laughing inside and out. I wish your career is filled with joy on measure with that which you bring to us! Thank you Kevin! – Mark

  • Swisth

    Kevin Olusola-Tom Waits collaboration
    with Sonny Rollins on sax

  • BEEZ

    His beatboxing style is very similar to Rahzel.

  • Diana P 07, 08

    nice to see a YORKIE alumnus still making beautiful a cappella!

  • Amy Hunt

    So proud of Owensboro’s own.  You are so talented Kevina and we are enjoying watching your rise to stardom.

  • Cassandra

    When I first was introduced to Kevin via my husband (somehow!) finding one of his videos on YouTube, we spent until 4 AM finding and watching every single video of him, and Pentatonix, we could!

    We are so thrilled that Pentatonix won the SingOff competiton!

    We recently went to see Turtle Island Quartet, specifically to see and hear Mark Somers, that group’s co-founder and AMAZING cellist.  Anyone who can go to one of their concerts should!  That group has been an inspiration and launching pad for many astounding musicians.

    We are going to pay continuing attention to Kevin and Pentatonix–they definitely express the soul of music in their collaborative spirit and technical mastery used to reach and sing to people on a fresh, new level.

    Keep it up!

    Cassandra

  • Blake W

    I’m really glad that I heard this today and took the opportunity to learn more about Kevin. His accomplishments are inspiring, and his testimony that I heard on an iTunes podcast is humbling. It has been a huge blessing to my day.

  • JMarie

    Kevin, thank you so much for staying true to your own self! thank you for being so humble…. thank you for sharing your talents and your amazing heart… you are a super easy musician to fall in love with!!

  • Hidan

    What an awesome show. Kevin Olusola is an talented youth and can’t wait to see what he can do in the coming years.

  • Howard Bernstein

    Another great show, Tom.  For another classical cellist who added beatboxing and other styles a few years ago, search for Cello Joe on the web.  He’s moved a lot farther from classical than your excellent guest, so his sound and his interests are very different.

  • Bikewer

    Cellist Yo Yo Ma has done some interesting fusion/collaborations as well, check out his recent bluegrass/classical album The Goat Rodeo Sessions.

  • Anonymous

    I’m just hearing the show (and this music, for the first time), with the caller dismissing this as transient.  I couldn’t disagree more emphatically.  Musical synthesis on this level is as profound, never mind profoundly moving, as it is rare.  This is Scarlatti playing with Spanish folk music.  I think the caller was confusing ‘transience’ with having fun –which musical geniuses have a persistent habit of doing. 

  • David Angel

    Wonderful show! Kevin Olusola is clearly an immensely talented musician. Looking forward to hearing more from you in the future.  Be proud, stand tall my brother!

  • Pingback: The Talented Kevin Olusola | Modular Designs' World | a blog about more than carpet

  • Martyjhafner

    I, at 51, approached this with skepticism only to be blow away.  I loved it.  Amazing.  Brilliant.  Keep up the great work young man.  You have a fan for life. 

  • Chydog67

    Kevin, as the father of two young teenage boy musicians you are truly an inspiration for them.  Rhythm runs through us all, thanks for combining two wonderful diverse sources.  Peace

  • Tybo

    Also check out another innovative young KY cellist, Ben Sollee bensollee.com

  • Modavations

    fds

  • Isa

    I’m 56, love classical music and love
    acapella. I liked your response to the older gentleman who said your
    music was transitory and seemed to imply it wouldn’t “last through
    the ages.” I agree with jayay.
    The composers who are trying to write for posterity rather
    than their passions possibly are paying too much attention to their
    egos and not enough to the music. Who even knows what will last when
    we’re gone? I’m guessing Bach probably wasn’t thinking in those
    terms, particularly when he wrote his religious pieces. Only time
    can tell us that. In the meantime, what a journey you’re having!
    Every time I hear your work, I can’t wait to hear more.

  • Slipstream

    He is hardly the first person to mix classical music with pop music, or the first to mix cello and beatbox sounds, but Olusola is a fine player and seemingly a very likeable fellow.

ONPOINT
TODAY
Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

RECENT
SHOWS
Aug 29, 2014
Beyoncé performs at the 2014 MTV Music Video Awards on Sunday, August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. (Getty)

Sex, power and Beyoncé’s feminism. The message to young women.

 
Aug 29, 2014
Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

War moves over Syria, Ukraine. Burger King moves to Canada. Nine-year-olds and Uzis. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: August 29, 2014
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

On hypothetical questions, Beyoncé and the unending flow of social media.

More »
Comment
 
Drew Bledsoe Is Scoring Touchdowns (In The Vineyards)
Thursday, Aug 28, 2014

Football great — and vineyard owner — Drew Bledsoe talks wine, onions and the weird way they intersect sometimes in Walla Walla, Washington.

More »
Comment
 
Poutine Whoppers? Why Burger King Is Bailing Out For Canada
Tuesday, Aug 26, 2014

Why is Burger King buying a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain? (We’ll give you a hint: tax rates).

More »
1 Comment