The Voca People perform sold out shows around the world with their unique and pioneering brand of beatboxing and a cappella mash ups twinned with physical theatre and comedy.
Shai Fishman, musical director and co-creator spoke to us about the concepts behind this unique show and their near miss with the Latin Grammys.
In what ways are The Voca People visionary?
We started before Glee, The Sing-Off, Pentatonix, Split Screen harmony videos… I was working on a musical when Lior Kalfo, the artistic director of The Voca People came to me and said “I wanna create an acapella show”.
I already loved acapella groups but the concept of doing an acappella ‘show’ was weird because until now they had only been concerts, not shows.
I liked the idea of treating the performers like instruments. A cappella groups would use ‘ba ba ba’ or ‘doo doo doo’ but you wouldn’t hear elaborate articulation or instrument sounds – that’s what I wanted to do.
How much of the show’s success relies on them being aliens?
When we started, they were talking to the audience, conveying the plot and telling jokes, but it just didn’t fit. We wanted the show to be more musical and less verbal.
Lior saw a poster of some mime artists and suggested “how about we make them all white?” I added “how about we make them aliens?” We’re both Israeli, and have moved abroad so we understood the importance of international appeal.
The emphasis is on physicality and musicality rather than language and culture specific gags. We use a simple plot with lots of body language and facial expressions. By taking away language, we take away a barrier.
What has been the pinnacle of The Voca People so far?
We were invited to do a spot at The Latin Grammys. I didn’t know how big it was going to be. I did know that 90 million people watched it live around the world – that’s OK because you don’t see them! But then we arrived at the venue…
10,000 people! We had done 4000 but this was huge. Jennifer Lopez and Enrique Iglesias were performing alongside all these incredible musicians. It was crazy.
So, we went in for rehearsal. We had a 5 minute piece but the director gave us another 5 minutes. We had an entrance as if the singers were coming out from the audience. It was a going to be a really great piece.
We finish the rehearsal and the manager comes over and says “Would you like to accompany me to my office? I need to speak with you.”
She says “You can’t perform tomorrow.”
I say “What!? Why not? The director loved us so much he gave us a double slot.”
She said “I’m sorry but we have a strict policy against artists performing with playback.”
The singers have ear pieces in which I can talk to them during the performance and give them keys etc. I thought she meant that.
“That’s not playback, they’re ear pieces so they can hear me. Everything is live.”
She says “No, no. I distinctly heard drums and keyboard!”
By taking away language, we take away a barrier.
I said “You gotta trust me, it’s designed to sound like that, there’s no backing track.”
But she just wouldn’t believe me!
I said “Well let me bring them to your office so they can sing for you.”
She said “No, I’m sorry. It’s done.”
I was beside myself. I waited with the singers for 4 hours so we could catch her off guard and sing for her. We started one by one…
She was totally bowled over and allowed us to perform – but not only that, she said “I want you guys to present an award.”
We only had over night to prepare but we came up with a 30 second piece to present the award. It was an incredible, beautiful night!
Do The Voca People have a full schedule?
Right now we have 2 shows in the world performing at the same time. We have had up to 5! Each show can perform up to 250 times a year. It’s a lot of work!
We are developing a second show because our current format has done it’s time, although we do change it from time to time, from country to country. The second show will have a lot more technology and we are seeking new ways to be ground breaking, the way our first show was. Although we will still have all the audience participation and crazy medleys. It is going to be The Voca People – on steroids!
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