A Japanese Zen Buddhist Monk has gone viral for incorporating beatbox into meditative chanting and sounds.
Yogetsu Akasaka, 37, received attention for his YouTube post in May titled “Heart Sutra Live Looping Remix” where he recorded himself throat-singing and beatboxing to meditation sounds, according to Vice.
Akasaka told Vice he did not record the video to get attention online or to showcase his unique talent.
“It’s not that I wanted to gain attention for my ‘uniqueness,’ I just wanted to continue my passion for music,” he said. “In the same way someone plays the guitar or the drums, I myself am just a normal performer.”
With attention spanning overseas, the monk told South China Morning Post, “I was really surprised when it spread through other Asian countries, then the US and Europe; I was chanting in Japanese. Since I got so many followers, I’ve started live-streaming in English – maybe only about 20 per cent of my followers are Japanese.”
Combining beatboxing and throat-singing is something unseen anywhere else, especially considering that the latter is a specialized form of chanting for Buddhist monks.
Beatboxing has been Akasaka’s passion prior to becoming a monk. It started in 2005 when a friend introduced him to Japanese beatboxer Afra and told him how the artist performs music using only his mouth.
“I was absolutely shocked that people could do such things, and so I was interested in trying it. And then I realized, I was pretty good at it,” the monk said.
He also traveled and busked on the streets in Japan, Australia, and the U.S.
Then, in 2015, Akasaka followed his father’s footsteps and became a monk.
“Usually in Japan, people become monks because their family lives in a temple. But for my father, he was just a normal person who decided to become a monk,” Akasaka said. “I was inspired, and decided I wanted to succeed in my father’s current role as an abbot in a temple in the Iwate Prefecture.”
“I always had a love for music and wanted to continue my passion even after becoming a monk,” said Akasaka, who was also a theater actor before. “Which is why I had decided to take on beatboxing again.”
He said he was initially a little worried “because this was something no one had done before – it was out of the tradition.”
The monk aims to break the misconception about Buddhism.
“I think in Japan, people often associate Buddhism with funerals, and the sutra has a little bit of a negative and sad image,” Akasaka said.
His choice of the “very formal” Buddhist robes was on purpose, ones that he donned for the severity of COVID-19 in Japan at the time.
“I have had fans tell me that they were able to sleep well and relax due to my beatboxing videos, which is absolutely amazing,” Akasaka added. “I am honoured to be able to combine my passion with my religious beliefs, and that this has impacted people around the world.”
Feature Image via @yochanting