There’s something to be said about our teenage years. Most of us oscillated between a sense of insecurity and confidence. Some of us weren’t sure of where we were heading, some of us didn’t care and a handful of us had a good idea of what path we’d be on.
There’s a fourth category though – one so rare that we probably don’t even realise it exists. The people in this category know exactly what they want and, more importantly, they’ve already started moving towards it.
Vineeth Vincent knew where he was headed from the very beginning. By the age of 17, he had already become financially independent and was making a name for himself. Today, at the age of 25, he’s been a Guinness world record holder, a Limca record holder and has performed in over a thousand shows.
What stands out in all of this is his unconventional method to make it happen – Beatboxing. Armed with just his voice, Vineeth is able to create music reproducing the sounds of any percussion instrument. Within a minute of being on stage, he blazes past different beats and sounds that has the audience mesmerised and break into a cheer.
When I met with Vineeth, he exuded confidence and certainty. This was a 25-year-old who was very serious about his direction in life and yet, hadn’t lost any sense of cheer or ‘cheekiness’. “Sometimes, my confidence is seen as arrogant or cocky!” he says, at a certain point in our conversation. Thankfully for him, that self-assurance was backed by a track record.
Vineeth knows exactly what he wants, and he has known it for quite sometime. Interestingly, it all started with him knowing what he didn’t want.
“I Had To Find Another Way”
Back in school, Vineeth could never wrap his head around his subjects. “I was very weak with languages and anything to do with numbers! Ever since I was little, I wouldn’t do anything that I didn’t enjoy. I felt the same way here.” After continually performing poorly in his exams, Vineeth knew that this wasn’t a path chalked out for him. “I realised that I had to figure something out. My entire life was based on how I would score in my exams. I had to find another way.”
At the age of 15, at a time when most children would set their sights on the board exams, Vineeth decided to take up a job. “I wanted to earn as my father had passed away several years ago. My mother had to single-handedly take care of me and my brother. I didn’t want to be a burden.” He took up a job in the line of sales and marketing, worked hard, and discovered that he had a knack for connecting with people.
At this point of time, Vineeth also expressed a strong interest in music. “I always enjoyed singing and I started learning to play the guitar by myself. I was looking for any opportunity to perform. My first gig was at a popular cafe where I played for fifty bucks and a cup of hot chocolate! It was the first time I ever experienced getting something in return for music.”
From MCing To Beatboxing
Many odd jobs later, Vineeth finally found his footing in Event Management. “Between 2005 to 2007, I aggressively grew myself in the field and I also kept networking. At one particular event, a person asked me if I was comfortable with being on stage. I said I was VERY comfortable with it!” In April 2007, Vineeth was offered his first MCing opportunity and there was no turning back. “I always wanted to be on stage and I knew I would be good at it.”
For the next few months, Vineeth took on many MCing opportunities. He figured he had finally found his calling. All that was set to change when he was given a simple compliment. “I would make a lot of funny noises on the mic when I MCed and people loved it. I’d just be goofy all the time. One day after one of my shows, a person came up to me and said ‘That’s some really cool beatboxing!’ I was like ‘huh?'”
Once Vineeth got home, he immediately looked it up on the internet. “I began to understand more about beatboxing and realised that there was no one in India even in the field! There was no documentation whatsoever and I knew that I could break into this. I saw it like a business and realised it made marketing and branding sense!”
Didn’t the fact that this was completely unknown in India scare you at all, I ask. “I consider myself as someone who loves challenges. It’s what my mom always says about me. I see a challenge and I take it up.”
The Beatboxing Boom
In January 2008, Vineeth had one simple agenda – aggressive marketing. “I worked on my skills and created a set list. Besides that, I started sending hundreds of e-mails. Everyone thought I was into mimicry! No one understood what it was and I spent a lot of time explaining it.” The aggression towards his pursuit paid off. In the next three months, Vineeth performed in over 90 shows. With such speed, however, Vineeth had to face an inevitable consequence.
“I lost my voice! Suddenly I was on antibiotics and couldn’t speak! I had to cancel a few shows. I then went back to the internet and did a lot of research on how to maintain my voice. I began maintaining a healthy balance of beatboxing and MCing.”
How did he manage to get over 90 shows in a matter of three months? “I believe I was smart about my work. I paid attention to every little detail. From how my e-mails were framed to how the brochures and photographs looked. It took a little money and I paid attention to every little thing. That paid off in a big way.”
At the age of 19, Vineeth was already living his dream life. Yet, he felt the need to fill a certain void.
“I took a break from my studies and really missed going to college and being with friends. I even missed having friends, with all my gigs. I decided to go back. It was incredibly difficult to balance MC-ing, beatboxing and college life. I was very lucky that my college, Christ University, was very supportive of my endeavours. They knew I was very serious about it.” Vineeth pauses to reflect on this for a second. “I guess they figured I was a little cracked in the head!”, he says, with a cheeky grin plastered across his face.
With all that he was able to achieve, Vineeth wasn’t quite finished. He was just about a year away from achieving a feat that would be acknowledged worldwide.
The World Records
In 2011, Vineeth went on to pursue two world records. Most people would assume that his excitement was related to the record in itself. Vineeth, however, had a different motive in his mind. “I hated the concept of competition. I feel that school, college fests, jobs and everything else tends to thrive on it. I wanted to do something that would get a lot of people to collaborate. It wasn’t just about ‘me’, but bringing a lot of people together to achieve something.” This became the driving factor for Vineeth to work on the idea of the world’s largest beatboxing ensemble.
“For the Limca record, we had 2136 people participate. While a lot of work went into directing the ensemble, it really was the product of many people volunteering and cooperating, as well as my college helping me out.” On the 5th of February 2011, the performance titled ‘Can you say Beatbox?’ kicked off, leading to Vineeth and troupe setting a national record.
The Guinness world record presented with it another set of challenges altogether. “The rules and regulations set by Guinness were very strict. It was 20 pages long, and we had the law students of our college go through it to ensure we met all of the conditions and adhered to the rules. The whole performance was a function of people leading different units to make it all come together – be it the logistics, assembling of the people or the legal aspects. It truly was amazing.” Barely a month later, the world record was set with 1246 participants on the 5th of February, 2011. This record was later beaten by a beatboxer from the UK. As far as India goes, the record remains untouched.
“I was interested to break the myth that only competition was the way to prove ourselves, especially in college and the regular college fests. That was clearly achieved.”
Lessons along the way
“My major lesson over the last few years? I never worked for free. I also never expected anything for free. I always paid for any service that I got. I know that when I pay, I can expect something in return. I strongly believe that you must truly learn to value yourself. I think the people who just do free gigs don’t understand the value they provide. I value myself, and everyone else must too. That’s the only way you’ll make it. Know why you’re doing something. If it’s for fame or ego, so be it…as long as that really is it. If that’s not clear, everything else is shaky.”
Vineeth suddenly pauses for a moment. Uncharacteristically, his tone switches to one that is more categorical and serious. He says something that those in the fourth category of teenagers probably reflect upon, and yet applies to all of us. “For the much younger lot, discover who you are first. Don’t get distracted by people around you. Having a relationship or anything else related to peer pressure is not the most important thing. If you don’t have a strong core, the other things don’t matter. Focus on growing yourself, and then you’ll know what you want.”
A second after he finishes the sentence, Vineeth’s cheeky grin is back.