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What It Takes to be an Out of This World A Cappella Singer

Voca People

The Voca People performed at The Latin Grammys in a 10,000 seat arena and perform over 250 shows a year around the globe.

Shai Fishman the co-creator and musical director of the pioneering a cappella show explains how he travels the world scouting for talent and what it takes to become one of them.

What are the essential qualities of The Voca People?

  1. The Voca People are vocal athletes and have a range well beyond a normal range.
  2. You need to have a natural feel and to sing all the musical genres from dub step to opera convincingly. Not just the vocal line but also all the ‘daka dakas’ and ‘widdles’ of the instruments too.
  3. You need sooo much charisma. Bearing in mind that the make-up reduces your natural expression and the suits are very confining and sometimes makes it difficult to figure out who’s a guy and who’s a girl.
  4. You also need experience. Singing a 6-part harmony is not easy, especially whilst doing choreography.

Is there a recruitment process for The Voca People?

The show started in Israel so we had very little to choose from. We didn’t hire people with specific skills in mind and as a result, as the show developed we had to let a few people go.

Our core singers help the show evolve. In particular, the original ‘Scratcher’ character is a comedic genius. I would honestly put him at the same level as Robin Williams – no exaggeration! The original ‘Alta’ character is also an incredible contributor to the show’s success.

Now we are tripping over our own concept trying to find suitable performers to fill these rolls as the show expands. I travel the world to find people who are up to the job. There have been so many times that we thought we’d found the right people but for whatever reason – range, stamina, feel, acting etc. – it didn’t work out.

There is no guaranteed process of how we recruit but it can take weeks to workshop them and filter out the less suitable singers.

How do The Voca People look after their voices?

A few weeks ago, we were in Budapest and we had to travel for hours between the hotel and the theatre for the show. We’d be buzzing from a great show, joking and singing all the way back to the hotel which unfortunately would compromise their vocal ability for the next day’s show. But I can’t resist when that happens because it’s so nice and artistic and it helps unify the group.

Sometimes we’re in locations that are in arid or high regions and singers lose their voices without knowing why. I always get the humidifiers out. They don’t conserve their voices as much as I wished but they quickly learn their limits.

What is the rehearsal process like?

I always send out sheet music in advanced but 50% of our singers don’t actually read music. It depends on the country and their system of education. French singers tend to always read music for example. In Israel, reading for singers isn’t emphasised.

Readers tend to learn the music quicker, but there is an upside to the non-readers. They often have better ears and better memories. If we have to do a quick improv for a TV appearance, the non-readers are better. I don’t always have time to notate a 30 second segment.

I do provide recordings for singers to learn from too. But either way, prior to a show launch they will spend 8 hours a day for a whole month rehearsing with me.

How can a singer learn a cappella vocals?

The idea of just singing with other singers without instruments or a backing track is foreign to most singers. Usually singers depend on a constant reference like a bass line to stay on key.

In order to learn a cappella singing, you must practice. Listen to as much a cappella music as you can and sing along with it. Have the discipline to listen to the phrasing and stop when the other singers stop.

Practice as many genres as possible so you can develop a feel for each one. Soul groups like Take 6 or Naturally 7 require a different vibe to traditional barbershop quartets or Jazz close harmony trios. What is your natural groove?

Listen to a wide variety of artists and create harmony lines for their records. Make the 3rd harmony, then make the 5th. It may or may not work but it still constitutes as practice.

Most singers can grasp a simple 3-part harmony, but when it comes to dissonant chords and 6 part harmonies, your life experience and practice will come in real handy.

The Voca People are friendly aliens from the planet Voca, somewhere behind the sun…where all communication is made by music and vocal expressions. The Voca People believe that life is music and music is life. They visit planet Earth and they have a lot to sing about. It’s a new inter-galactic phenomenal like no other show. Amazing vocal sounds, a capella singing with the art of beat box creating an incredible range of sounds and instruments. An evening of total excitement, music of all times, comedy and audience participation. After a millennium of space travel, The Voca People, are finally landing on the unfamiliar planet Earth, sadly discovering that their precious spaceship charger – Musical energy – has completely emptied. Slowly, The Voca People learn the strange habitants, habits and music of planet Earth, and with the help of the audience, musically energize their unique spaceship. www.voca-people.com