Image: Matehaere Hope ‘Hope One’ Haami / Dylan Evans
What do you know about beatboxing?
It’s a strange question, sure. A lot of us may think of it as people getting up in front of a microphone and making the same sounds with their mouths that an instrument might make, but it’s really so much more – like a way to fight sexism, racism, and gender stereotypes.
Hot Brown Honey turns up the performance art heat, delivering lashings of sass and a hot pinch of empowerment. Playing in Aotearoa after performances in venues as famous as the Sydney Opera house, the absolutely fabulous show boasts a set, lighting, music and costumes to rival the best of Beyoncé. Brought to New Zealand by Briefs Factory (the same folks responsible for the “boylesque” cabaret show Briefs), the show features six Australian women of global First Nations heritage, including Māori, Samoan, Tongan, Indigenous Australian, South African and Indonesian. Oh, and the show – written by Lisa Fa’alafi (Polytoxic Dance Theatre) and Busty Beatz (the musical director for Briefs) – also takes on colonialism, sexism, gender stereotypes and racism with unapologetic fierceness.
Among the performers in Hot Brown Honey is Māori artist Matehaere Hope ‘Hope One’ Haami. The Brisbane-based artist is among Australasia’s most renowned female beatboxers, having toured the globe and placing third in the women’s division at the World Beatboxing Championships in Germany. Hope One has also performed with Tom Thum, Joel Turner & the Beatbox Alliance, T-Pain, Naughty by Nature, Eve, George Clinton, Michael Franti and The Wailers. On top of it all, she continues to work with young people from diverse backgrounds, creating Hope One’s School of Beatbox.
Hope One recently took some time from her hectic schedule to chat with Villainesse. Here’s what she had to say.
Villainesse: What’s it like being involved with Hot Brown Honey?
Matehaere Hope ‘Hope One’ Haami: I am so proud to be a part of Hot Brown Honey and everything it stands for. It’s a journey like no other - being a part of a movement like Hot Brown Honey is empowering and has a whole rollercoaster of emotions to go with it. Liberating.
What do you hope audiences take away from seeing Hot Brown Honey?
Strength. Courage. Enlightenment. Conversation.
Why beatboxing as your artistic medium instead of say, hip-hop or performance art?
I think I’m just specific in what I do, which is predominantly beatbox. I don’t really delve into other art forms. Being part of Hot Brown Honey has also allowed me to learn other art forms.
You’ve worked with famous artists all over the world and have won some major awards. Why continue to be based in Australasia?
I love life in Australia… and may be a little comfortable! Although I am open to exploring, who knows, I might be in London next year. :D
What did you hope to achieve in creating Hope One’s School of Beatbox?
My goal is to share my story and inspire young people to chase their dreams, never give up and believe in themselves while promoting the art of beatboxing. I'd love to get the whole world beatboxing and make it part of the school music curriculum. That’s a larger goal. But just influencing beatboxing itself, being able to use our mouths as musical instruments, and igniting people to realise that creating music doesn’t have to be expensive.
What are some particular challenges of beatboxing?
Challenges of beatboxing… Professionally opportunities are quite amazing, but it’s not a huge market – so sometimes the work isn’t consistent. Practising beatboxing can be challenging, especially when you’re trying to find new sounds or new inspiration in creating while trying to stay original is hard!
Are there stereotypes about female beatboxers? Is it harder to gain respect compared to male beatboxers?
I believe so, but serious female beatboxers know where it’s at. It can be harder in a sense because male beatboxers are another level, but everybody is respectful in the beatbox scene. The beatbox scene has a lot of love inside it. It’s when you step outside of that and enter the hip hop/rap world, you can get a different vibe and it’s not always a good one.
What do you love most about beatboxing?
Organic rawness and ability to make music! The culture, and I love where it’s heading!
What lessons do you think young women could learn from your story?
That if you want to enter that male dominated area then you go and enter that area with fierceness and pride inside of you, and you can damn well sit at the table! Regardless of what others say you can and can’t do! Work hard at your craft and OWN IT!
Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, what does feminism mean to you?
It’s pretty simple, we should all be equal!