Empowering Youths in Singapore Through Music

If we trace back to the beginnings of Singapore’s leading cajon group, BEAT’ABOX, we would find a young, passionate boy of 17. With a humble acoustic guitar in hand, his wish was to gather his friends together to play and enjoy music in the void deck under his flat. Today, the very same person has become the founder of an inspiring musical initiative for youths in Singapore. Read on for our special feature with the founder of BEAT’ABOX, Arthur Choo, who will share with us the humble beginnings of this local and professional cajon group.

What is the cajon?

The cajon may look like a normal box to people at first glance, but it is an instrument with a rich cultural and historical origin.

“It was a communication instrument for the African slaves back in the 18th century. Using the cajon, or I would say – codfish crates – to communicate through prison cells, was one of the only way to communicate with one another: through beats and rhythms.” – Arthur

What does BEAT’ABOX mean?

It refers to ‘the action itself’ of playing the cajon!

How did BEAT’ABOX get started?

The start of Arthur’s passion for music first began when he was 17 and picked up the acoustic guitar. His primary goal then was to hold singing and play sessions with his friends. Music was a way for them to gather together and enjoy each other’s company.

His interest for music was cultivated over time after that, and over the years he learned to play other instruments such as those used for recycle percussion. In 2005, Arthur took up an opportunity to travel to Osaka, Japan and participate in a music festival.

As you would have guessed, this was where he first came across the cajon. What he initially thought of as a stool, however, drew him in once the music began to sound. This sparked as interest in the box-drum instrument and eventually, Arthur himself started playing the cajon two years later.

In 2011, Arthur gathered friends, both musicians and non-musicians, to join his cajon circle where members challenged one another, had fun, and learned how to play the cajon. From there, the group grew and grew, started performing in public places like CCs, and today has become established as the BEAT’ABOX group.

beatabox, dermagold, singapore

What are the objectives of BEAT’ABOX?

  1. To share the passion of playing the cajon.
  2. To create a vibrant Singapore

Through BEAT’ABOX, the group wanted to create a greater sense of community within Singapore. They wanted to be a platform for gatherings of music-lovers and fellow Singaporeans alike, and the cajon served as their medium, its music as their language.

Arthur passed on his knowledge to his students, who in turn became facilitators and teachers for workshops. The youths were taking music and learning into their own hands through BEAT’ABOX.

How did BEAT’ABOX reach out to the youths?

In 2012, BEAT’ABOX partnered with *SCAPE to become one of a variety of youth interest groups. Here, the cajon group was given the space and the resources to share their music and teach others about the cajon. With this, the group was able to connect with the younger generation and integrate music into their lives. This was meaningful in many ways:

“Throughout all these years, I’ve seen music as one of the therapeutic tools or channels to heal and also to create acceptance.” – Arthur

Understanding that it is important to help the youths of today build a better tomorrow, BEAT’ABOX believes that through its music and its community, it can give youths a means to express themselves and more:

“We hope to also use music as one of the tools to socially connect with them, and also to heal and to nourish their souls. Because I believe that music can create imaginations… it recreates and shapes the mind as well.” – Arthur

Having just celebrated our 50th birthday as one nation, we asked Arthur about the kind of Singapore he can envision in the next 50 years. He shared this with us: “I’m hoping to see more leaders being true to their dreams, creating more energy, and also to build a more rhythmic and artistic sense in Singapore!”

The Reinvention Journey team would like to thank Arthur and BEAT’ABOX for sharing with us their inspiring and meaningful story. If you want to find out more about this unique musical instrument and join the warm community they have built, do check out their facebook page and website here! And, if you happen to know any other inspiring locals like Arthur, feel free to touch base with us at community@dermagold.sg. We look forward to featuring more homegrown talents and initiatives!

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