Like the melodies he once bestowed upon throngs of Euro-Disney tourists and numerous Pacific Northwest bar-goers, Jim Castaneda’s drum beats are created with his voice.
Castaneda is a veteran musician, with 20 years of experience singing a cappella soul, rock and pop both as a solo artist and with groups like the award-winning a cappella group Kickshaw and the regional vocal ensemble Soundsation, with whom he toured Europe in the late 1990s.
Recently, Castaneda has been fine-tuning his skills as a solo artist, performing as a self-proclaimed modern one-man band, Original Jim, producing songs which are a medley of soul, pop and rock.
Castaneda’s performances contain all of the standard band particulars: percussion, instrumentation and vocals. But each is produced by Castaneda and his loop pedal.
To friends like former bandmate Kelly Shirey and a plethora of acquaintances and fans, Castaneda is known as “the human beatbox.”
On Saturday, March 21, Castaneda will be bringing his act to the main stage in the latest installment of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts’ Local Artist Series, “Original Jim Live, Beatbox Soul.”
Each year, the organization selects four local artists to perform free of all rental expenses. Artists receive a profit of ticket sales for the evening. Tickets cost $15.
For Castaneda, it is also an opportunity to launch his first solo album, entitled “Beatbox Soul.”
“It’s very exciting,” Castaneda said of the release. “No one’s ever heard it before because it just came out of my head.”
Beatbox is a form of vocal percussion in which the artist produces drum beats and rhythm through use of their mouth, lips, tongue and voice.
The style has its roots in several American musical genres such as blues, ragtime, vaudeville, hokum and the Appalachian technique known as eefing.
According to Beatboxacademy.ca, one of the best known references of beatboxing in contemporary culture comes from barbershop quartets. Singers would keep time with tongue clicks and short, sharp inhaling, a technique which evolved into an inward snare.
Blues musicians also used claps and clips to simulate drums and humming noises for bass lines, according to the site.
Of those who have inspired him, Castaneda said that Michael Jackson was “a fantastic beatboxer,” and also added that Bobby McFerrin’s One-Man Band and beatboxing were also remarkable.
Of his own work, Castaneda described it as the “exploding version of a solo artist.”
Technology has enabled the evolution of the one-man band, Castaneda explained. By looping, he is able to replay a variety of selected sounds repeatedly as he creates live melodies and percussion and plays guitar, creating a sound resembling a full band.
Although it’s Castaneda’s first time performing his solo work onstage, as opposed to the coffee house and bar crowds he usually plays to, it isn’t his first time at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.
Since moving to Whidbey 10 years ago, Castaneda has become involved with a handful of plays at WICA and at Oak Harbor’s Whidbey Playhouse.
He noted that several of the songs on his new album were inspired by Whidbey and his wife, and contain generally positive messages.
“I tend to write on the positive end of things,” he said. “That’s where I hang out mentally.”
Though Castaneda said he wouldn’t pass up an opportunity, if presented, to sign with a record label, his ultimate goal is to play live and ensure that his music is accessible to the masses via the internet.
Following his show at WICA, Castaneda will join longtime friend Kelly Shirey at Flyer’s Restaurant and Brewery in Oak Harbor on Thursday, March 26.
For more information about Castaneda’s work, visit originaljim.com.
To purchase tickets to Saturday’s show at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, visit https://tickets.wicaonline.com.