As he sits down for an interview, beatboxer Felix Zenger reaches for his smart phone and points to a short video of a large and enthusiastic crowd packed in front of the Barn Stage, dancing and cheering wildly. It was taken about half an hour earlier during his performance, and Zenger’s amazement at this adoration shows.
“I can’t really describe it, but you can’t really realize it when you’re performing – you’re in performance mode, doing your thing, but you realize afterwards, when you see pictures, was it really like that? It’s quite incredible.”
Zenger returned for his second visit to the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival this year and, once again, he was a big hit with festivalgoers.
His music involves making impressive sounds with his mouth, from drum beats to the ‘scratch’ of a record on a turntable. The scratch, he says, has taken months to master – and is still improving.
Zenger loves the Salmon Arm festival, which, he says, has attained what many don’t. It’s professionally run, yet stays relaxed, and it looks after the artists well while attracting good, enthusiastic audiences.
Music comes naturally to the 26-year-old from Finland, having grown up in a family where music was everything, with his dad – a guitarist – a principal in a music school. Zenger, also a piano player, has studied music since he was five.
Asked about goals, he says he wants to continue to combine his skills and musicality so that he is not performing a “gimmick or a trick,” but making music “that makes people feel something.”
He loves beatbox, because, “compared to other instruments, there’s so much ground untouched, so many things that haven’t been done yet… The instrument is your mouth and it’s in you. You don’t have to buy anything to use your voice. It’s the power of the human body.”
Zenger likes sports for the same reason. On his way to Salmon Arm he stopped in Montreal for the world ‘footbag’ championships, the generic name for what some call ‘hackysack.’ Hackysack is the trade name for one particular brand of the small soft bag that players keep off the ground by using their feet. Zenger won one of the categories in Montreal, making him a world champion.
Along with his musical and sporting passions, Zenger is unique in yet another way. He owns a chocolate factory.
With no inspiration from Charlie of movie fame, Zenger sells raw, organic chocolate, made in his factory “from bean to bar.” The money he makes beatboxing goes into the factory.
He explains that he believes in healthy food and has been eating a raw food diet for the past four years. The bounty of this area led him to go a bit overboard purchasing fresh fruit, he said, and he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to eat it all.
In a short span of time at the Roots and Blues Festival, several young women ask Zenger for his autograph. Asked about all the female fans, he acknowledges them and, smiling his boyish smile, says: “But never too many.”
He’s quick to add, however, that he’s noticed online that his fans are pretty evenly divided between male and female.
When Zenger is not touring, he practises beatbox daily, and is working on his second CD. Although he works hard, all of his pursuits, from beatbox to footbag to chocolate, seem to have a light-hearted flair to them. He says that’s not by accident.
“Life is a game you play.”