Faith, Innovation, and Cello Beat Boxing - An Interview with Kevin Olusola of Pentatonix

A capella pop act Pentatonix is poised to make an impact, and beat boxer Kevin Olusola has a lot to say about it. We talk to Kevin about their success, his beliefs, and what it is like to play cello and beat box at the same time.

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How did you start playing cello and beat boxing at the same time?

I started in Beijing, China. In the summer of 2008 I was studying Chinese all day and during my rest breaks I would play the cello. I randomly had the idea and thought “why not?” We actually had a talent show and I tried it out there just a little bit and all the Chinese kids were like “WHOA! What are you doing??” So I kept developing it just for fun, not thinking that anything would come out of it. The video that you saw, I was actually nominated for a senior prize at Yale and the board members wanted to see some of my work. That cello beat boxing piece I had worked on for about a year so I decided to put it up for the competition. My friend who filmed it said I should probably put it up on youtube, and I was like “eh, this is not the kind of thing that gets big on Youtube” and he said “just try it and see what happens.” All of a sudden it went viral and praise God, from that the next six months were set in stone by going out to tour with Gungor on the David Crowder Band’s last tour, and then Pentatonix.

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Does it help you with your art to be performing as a beat boxer and a cello player at the same time? How does that shape you as a musician?

Absolutely. I think being part of Pentatonix has helped my arrangement style a lot, and that’s helped me expand myself. Plus, the one thing I try to do is singing through the way I play the cello. When I play the cello I’m a singer, and the medium just happens to be the cello, so I think being part of Pentatonix has really helped that. I was actually going to go to a conservatory after I graduated college, now I’m thankful that Pentatonix happened because I’m working with singers in this realm of mainstream music, and to learn about how all that comes together has really helped my cello playing. From the cello side to the beat boxing, that has definitely translated because I think about my beat boxing in a very musical way rather than just kind of doing “booms” and “kahs.” I try to really think about phrasing and dynamics and all the things that go into making the cello music innovative and interesting. That all translates into what I do with beat boxing.

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