Beatboxer Shodekeh Talifero wants you to take a deep breath

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Performer Shodekeh Talifero says teaching students his breath technique starts by “connecting to their individual relationship, to their own breaths, and then just building from there.” He continues, “Through that, I think you start to unlock some of their own kinesthetic and vocal memory.” Photo by Zacile Rosette.

Shodekeh Talifero is a beatboxer, composer, and “breath artist” who’s performing this weekend on the Broad Stage as part of the Sō Percussion group. Ahead of the event, he’s giving free workshops to students at Santa Monica College. They’ll be learning his technique through breath and movement, then putting on a performance prior to Sō Percussion’s on Saturday.

Talifero has been experimenting with breath and sounds for as long as he can remember. “When I was a kid, I was always making sounds with my toys and imagining my own little universes. Through my sounds, I made my imagination more tangible,” he says.

“I think language is absolutely fascinating. But I'm also super fascinated by these other paradigms and tools of the voice that we may not activate as much,” shares Shodekeh Talifero, seen here performing some of his breath/movement practice. Photo by Zacile Rosette.

As he got older, other influences came into the mix from beatboxers Biz Markie and Dougie Fresh to Bobby McFerrin and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” He says, “Listen to that record [“Thriller”] again, from a new lens, and you will hear all kinds of dynamic breathing throughout the entire album. That's creative breathing, as far as I'm concerned. Because it's happening within a recorded musical compositional context. But I'm really interested in what happens when you isolate just breathing as a modality beyond functionality and expressivity. And then it enters the room of kinesthetic embodiment, artistic embodiment.”

That embodiment could be seen as Santa Monica College students danced on a recent day, connecting their breaths to their movements. Slow, languid breaths brought sweeping graceful gestures, and quick sharp ones sent arms swiftly slicing through the air.

First-year dance student Raven Smith said the exercise “controls my movement and adds a different texture to my dancing.”

“People told me that it was very powerful when it [breath] translated in my dance. So I've been trying to consciously incorporate my breathing into my dancing,” says Raven Smith, a first-year dance major at SMC. Photo by Zacile Rosette.

The student dancers will be performing at Santa Monica’s Project 562 in response to the work on the walls. “It's going to be a multimedia performance in the sense that they will create breath art pieces that will serve to interpret, or reinterpret really, some of the photographic pieces that are inside the space,” says Talifero.

At the Broad, Talifero will join Sō Percussion for a piece he composed for the occasion. “They transcribed it from the oral state of how I composed the music, and then transcribed it into western notation. And then arranged from there and gave it a whole new life, which is not a typical writing or transcription process, considering the world that I come from –– hip-hop –– and the worlds that they come from.”