Rif-dhan: Crafting Beats And Raising The Bar In Sri Lankan Beatboxing

Feb 02 2024.

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In the pulsating world of beatboxing, Ahamed Rifdhan, known as Rif_dhan, stands as a dynamic force shaping the rhythmic landscape of Sri Lanka. From a fortuitous encounter at a corporate event to clinching the title of the Sri Lankan Beatbox Champion in 2023, Rifdhan's journey is a testament to the passion, perseverance, and cultural infusion in his unique beatboxing style. In this interview, we delve into his discovery of beatboxing, the evolution of the beatboxing scene in Sri Lanka, and Rifdhan's aspirations for the future. He shares insights into his creative process, collaborations with diverse musicians, and the challenges he faced, challenging stereotypes and misconceptions along the way. As the official beatbox champion, Rifdhan carries a sense of responsibility to inspire aspiring beatboxers in Sri Lanka, envisioning a future marked by growth, collaboration, and international recognition for this rhythmic art form.

How did you first discover beatboxing, and what motivated you to pursue it as a form of expression?
It was a coincidence, I attended a corporate event and saw someone playing music using only his mouth and I was surprised to see that and fortunately, his seat was assigned right next to me. That is when my curiosity got the best of me and I started questioning him on the skill and started attending classes which he offered. This was the one and only Julius Mitchel, the beatboxing legend in Sri Lanka. My love to do something unique and different and music overall was my motivation to go ahead and learn the skill. 

Can you share some insights into your journey from being introduced to beatboxing to winning a competition? What challenges did you face along the way?
I started my beatboxing journey in 2018 and learned the skill fast, even my trainer was surprised. Not everyone was open to accepting this new skill that I had learned in the initial stages. Many had different opinions about it, and even my friends made fun of me. 

Beatboxing had become an inevitable part of me to the extent that even when I used to just walk on the road, I kept on beatboxing, and people used to look at me like what was going on. 

And then I took part in so many open mics and competitions. Stage fear was not a problem for me as I was a toastmaster. Then I was invited to join the only beatboxing band in Sri Lanka to date, Blaze Beatbox. The five of us attended plenty of events, won so many competitions and had the time of our lives.

In 2021 I participated in the Sri Lankan beatbox championship and lost in the semi finals. Then in 2022, I participated again in the Sri Lankan beatbox championship and emerged as the first runner-up. I was extremely heartbroken as I was close to winning it but that didn't mean I gave up. So this year I took part in the championships again and can now proudly say that I'm the winner of the Sri Lankan Beatbox Championship 2023.

How would you describe the most unforgettable moment on your beatboxing journey?
Winning the 2023 championship tops everything, but there's also a memory that I hold very close to my heart, which I'd like to mention. It was when I met Alem, The two-time World Beatbox champion. I was very happy and grateful that I was able to meet him and what made it even more special was that we were able to beatbox together and make a cover video, which I would cherish forever. I was able to introduce him to the Sri Lankan beatbox community along with my mentor Julius Mitchel. 

In what ways has beatboxing profoundly influenced and shaped the trajectory of your life?
I get so many opportunities like corporate events where I'm able to showcase my talent. This has helped create a lot of contacts and get in touch with so many individuals on higher hierarchies in the corporate field. It helps me in my day-to-day job role and is a blessing in disguise. 

In your opinion, how has the beatboxing scene in Sri Lanka evolved over the years, and what role do competitions play in its growth?
One of the main things I love about my beatboxing style and one thing that I'm extremely well known for, is my ability to perform the baila beats and the papare well. I enjoy watching people dance to my papare and it has happened numerous times, individually and with my band as well.

How do you incorporate Sri Lankan cultural elements or influences into your beatboxing style, and do you think this adds a unique flavour to your performances?
Back then there were only a handful of beatboxers in Sri Lanka, there was no community or anything as such in the initial stages. Due to that the existing senior beatboxers at the time, Julius Mitchel and Lakshan Wijesooriya put in a lot of effort to bring more individuals into the beatboxing scene and now currently we have an entire beatboxing community with about 70 to 80 beatboxers in various age ranges from all over SriLanka. Beatboxing competitions have played a major role in bringing out the talents in so many beatboxers, especially in discovering beatboxers in various parts of Sri Lanka. When we share a post about competitions, beatboxers from all over Sri Lanka respond to it and we discover so many new talents. 

As a competition winner, what impact do you think beatboxing has on the broader music culture in Sri Lanka?
As of now I would say there's not much of an impact per se, the broader music industry really doesn't get affected nor do they try to help us grow. Even getting sponsorships to events, it’s a big hassle. Grateful to all those who support us. 

Looking ahead, what do you envision for the future of beatboxing in Sri Lanka? Do you believe there is untapped potential or room for further growth and innovation?
The growth potential for the beatboxers in Sri Lanka is really high. We currently have so many talented beatboxers and the number of students attending beatboxing classes that we offer has also had a huge increase especially since little ones are super excited and love to learn more. Even on social media, individuals from our community display their talents and have gained many followers and popularity. There's great potential if they are shown the way to and as senior beatboxers we are always happy to help. Currently, we are working on getting sponsors on board to send talents abroad to participate in international beatboxing championships, it’s a little difficult as not everyone is open to it as they would be to a standard musician but hopefully, with a lot of effort, we can do it.

Can you share a bit about your creative process? How do you come up with new beats and sounds, and are there specific inspirations that drive your creativity?
I like watching international beatboxing championships, competitions and videos. That way I listen and learn from them and add my own twist to it and innovate new sounds. It actually all comes down to experience and practice, as you keep beatboxing for some time, you'll start getting ideas as to how you could add on and create new sounds. My band, Blaze, is also one way from which I get inspiration to come up with new sounds and methods, as we constantly meet to practice, I learn new routines and come up with routines with my bandmates.

Have you faced any stereotypes or misconceptions about beatboxing, and how do you address or challenge them in your journey?
Yes, I did face some misconceptions in the initial stages. Apart from my mom, the rest of my family (close and extended) thought that since I was a beatboxer, I would be led astray and choose the wrong path. But I made sure that I always kept my calm, made wise decisions, and not be misled. There were times when I did make certain mistakes which I regret to this day, but I look at it as a learning experience and moving forward hope to not commit the same mistakes again and I'm really careful about it. 

What I need everyone to understand is that not every individual will take the normal conventional route that everybody else will, some of us like to try out new things and have new experiences but that doesn't mean we are doing something wrong, it just means we are doing something different and unique and we should be given our space to flourish in our own ways. How I addressed all the misconceptions thrown my way is by not paying much heed to what others have to say, and just doing my own thing. That way I have fun and love doing what I do and I have now proved to them that I'm good at it too. Always remember that in the end, it's what you love that matters the most.

As a competition winner, do you feel a sense of responsibility to inspire and mentor aspiring beatboxers in Sri Lanka? If so, how do you approach this role?
As the official beatbox champion in Sri Lanka, I feel like I have a huge responsibility towards the aspiring beatboxers in Sri Lanka. It is my duty to ensure that I am the correct representation they need and bring about more opportunities their way. I hope to bring in more collaboration opportunities, and hold workshops, and I also give beatboxing classes as a way to teach the young crowd. I wish to spread the word about beatboxing in every corner of Sri Lanka, and this article is my first step towards it. Hopefully, I'll be able to achieve my goals.

Are there individuals you'd like to express gratitude to for their support or influence on your beatboxing journey?
I would first off like to thank my parents who believed in me when no one else did, I love you, Mom and Dad. Then I'd like to thank my mentor Julius Mitchel who made me the person I am today, I consider him to be my own brother. Then last but not least, special thanks to Dileepa Ariyarathna, the main organiser of the IDS- Born To Battle competitions for giving the Sri Lankan beatboxing community a slot to showcase and compete with their talents as well.

What message would you like to convey to the readers, especially those intrigued by your beatboxing journey?
To win a championship, I had to perform only for around 3 minutes in the finals but to perform for that 3 minutes, I trained for 5 years, lost so many times in so many competitions and faced a lot of scrutiny. My message is that just because you lose, don't give up on your dreams. Just like in the Japanese proverb remember, fall seven times, stand up eight.


Rihaab Mowlana

Rihaab Mowlana is the Deputy Features Editor of Life Plus and a journalist with a passion for crafting captivating narratives. Her expertise lies in feature writing, where she brings a commitment to authenticity and a keen eye for unique perspectives. Follow Rihaab on Twitter & Instagram: @rihaabmowlana


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