As a young man in his early twenties Benjamin Stanford, aka Dub Fx, set out to liberate himself. Through beat boxing, the art of vocal percussion, he found a way to travel to over forty countries and earn a living wherever he goes.
Forever moving my body’s always grooving
The sounds are always soothing
And my heart is always using
The love that I feel when I bounce in time
I’m free like a bird in the sunshine
I crouch down to the sound if I like the bass
I put my hands in the air and I scrunch up my face
I dance till my legs get weaker
To the rhythm that I hear from the speaker
Street performers typically play in metros and on street corners with musical instruments. In a radically new form of busking Dub Fx has taken the electronic sounds of the clubs and recreated them on the street – using only his voice.
Dub Fx’s medium is an extended form of beat boxing. He vocally produces sounds of musical instruments, and then using loop pedals and other special effects gear he layers those vocal sounds one on top of another. The result forms the symphonic background to his singing.
Dub Fx’s is sometimes accompanied by his friend, Mr Woodnote who adds a saxophone which is fed into the same mixer to create a rich, earthy and yet angelic sound. A good example of this is on the video ‘Flow’ recorded live on the street in Bristol, England.
Joined at the soul with a pair of headphones
We need nobody to let ourselves go
Always on my side as we rock a stage show
In an ocean of music we move with the flow
Dub Fx has been able to fund his travels by selling self-produced CDs which his girlfriend, Flower Fairy, sells to the gathering crowds while he performs. Dub Fx also distributes his offerings through his own label, Convoyunlimited, which he set up with his best friend and manager Cade Anderson.
The video ‘Flow’ has garnered over thirteen million views on YouTube. This popularity has gotten Dub Fx invited to play clubs and festivals around the world. He has been able to make a living without being reliant upon the music industry.
One of his latest videos finds him on a rooftop high above the metropolis of Mumbai in India. The sun is setting as we hear the sounds of evening prayer rising up from the smoky cityscape below. Dub Fx presses a few buttons with his foot on the electronic boards spread out on the ground before him and launches a percussive drum and bass beat that is joined by Mahesh Vinayakram’s jaw’s harp.
Soon Mahesh’s soaring voice is sending Hindu sounds into the evening sky before giving way to Cade Anderson’s rap. Dub Fx continues to step on his loop pedals building a hypnotic backdrop to the passionate incantations of the three men while, behind them, the sky turns dark pink and turquoise. This music cannot be categorized.
Dub Fx started out life in St Kildas, a suburb of Melbourne, and played in a regular band. But, his attraction to soul and reggae and other cultures was not shared by those around him. So he began a journey to discover what lay beyond the parochial local scene of his native land. The most receptive environment he found was in Europe, in Bristol, England in particular.
In the people there he found a level of authenticity that was refreshing. If people didn’t like his music they told him so to his face. Without the distance created by a stage it takes a lot of courage to connect with people when they are right there in front of you. You have to lose yourself to the music and let go of your self-consciousness.
I’m just a humble soul on the side of the street
Making my own tunes with my voice and with my feet
Ye I’m living day by day
Like a nomad stumbling on out of his cave
I celebrate the sun, I live my life for the earth
I let the rain come down on my endless search
I never quit, I’m planting seed by seed
I’m evolutionising to save my breed
I’m just a cog in the machine
A part of the process, I’m here to express
That we need some progress
In baring his soul to his listeners in such a raw and immediate context he has to be able to connect with people from many different cultures. Dub Fx says that his hybrid mix of rap, reggae, soul and electronica helps this connection. “I truly believe that music is a universal language. It’s a core part of our DNA and it’s embedded into every culture on the planet.”
Former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart said everyone in the world connects to beats; “Life is about rhythm. We vibrate, our hearts are pumping blood, we are a rhythm machine, that’s what we are.” Dub Fx puts out the beats and then injects his pure energy on top of them. It is the beats and energy that allow Dub Fx to unite with the people encounters around the world. It’s part music and part spirituality.
“I’m not aiming for my music to be spiritual but if some people find that in my music I won’t deny it. Spirituality can be found in surfing and skateboarding and cooking. Street performing taught me how to deliver my music with a certain conviction. And I guess that’s what touches people – they feel like a raw energy hits them. You can feel the music hit you like electricity in the chest. Marley, Dylan, Nirvana … they have that electricity.”