Jason Tom: Hawaii’s Human Beatbox

“I felt compelled to play and replicate each of these instruments — Eastern, Western, Hawaiian — with only my voice.”

Woojin Lim
The International Wave
8 min readJan 21, 2021

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Jason Tom Art After Dark Photo Credit: Joe Marquez

Jason Tom is an American beatboxer and slam poet who has represented Hawaii at the sixth International Human Beatbox Convention and the first and fifth American Beatbox Championship in Brooklyn. He received the Hawaii Scene Choice Award for Best Solo Human Beatbox Performer, TEDx Presenter Award for his “Vocal Groove” presentation, among other accolades. He co-founded the Human Beatbox Academy, where he leads outreach performances, speaking engagements, and workshops for students of all ages.

In his interview with The International Wave, Jason talks about his childhood inspirations, references exhilarating onomatopoeic beatbox sounds, and kowtows to his Asian cultural heritage as a fourth-generation American of Hawaii Chinese descent. The chat also delves into his most challenging elements of his personal life, including an SUV collision which rendered him unconscious, and on what strung him together to revitalize his strength as an inspirational speaker.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Woojin Lim: Tell me about your journey towards becoming a professional beatboxer. When were you first exposed to the artform, and how did you decide to take this on as part of a longer professional career?

Jason Tom: I began beatboxing at the tender age of four, recording on music cassettes by six, and performing live at 21. How I first got exposed to beatboxing was through music played on vinyl records, music cassettes, radio, television, as well as the beatboxing I heard from the 1980s to early 2000s. I am an analog and pre-YouTube era beatboxer.

In the 1980s, I often heard Bobby McFerrin, the Fat Boys, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, and Michael Jackson on the radio at my entrepreneurial father’s Chinese restaurant in Honolulu and during our family road trips on the West Coast of the United States. I also tuned in whenever the Police Academy film was televised to catch Michael Winslow’s every scene as Larvell Jones who performed amazing sound effects with his voice and beatboxing. In the 1990s, I was greatly…

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Woojin Lim
The International Wave

art & philosophy-themed columnist always in search of new conversations