Yuri Lane brings Blues-Hop to Chicago

Blog, Coursework, JOUR 511


“Harmonica + Beatbox: Final Cut” via Yuri Lane

Chicago is home to some of the greatest blues musicians of all time: Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf and Buddy Guy. Chicago’s also been the breeding ground for hip-hop legends from Kanye to Chance the Rapper.

But when it comes to blues-hop, it’s all Yuri Lane.

Lane will be performing blues-hop, his signature style of music that mixes beatboxing with harmonica with his show “Soundtrack City” Oct. 11-12 as part of Chicago Artists Month.

“It’s going to be a little concert, very multi-generational, so I’m going to teach the audience to beatbox,” Lane said. “I’m going to bring up some kids and adults to do a beatbox symphony, and then do some blues songs from Chicago with my own twist, and tell the story of hip-hop in my beatbox performance style.”

“Soundtrack City” is what Lane calls his “beatbox journey through Chicago,” telling the story of the neighborhoods of the city through different characters, ranging from an actress from Ukranian Village to a street harmonica player being driven from housing projects.

“Each character has their own soundtrack, their own song, and that’s part of the narrative,” Lane said. “I’m my own live sound designer.”

Barbara Koenen, City of Chicago director of artist resources, said Lane was selected as one of 20 featured events from more than 300 submissions for Chicago Artists Month, an ideal fit for 2014’s theme crossing borders.

“What’s interesting are the borders he’s crossing with different musical genres, and also just the borders of his own craft and art form that he’s brought to such a high level,” Koenen said.

Chicago Artists Month is a five-week event in its 19th year with art events of all styles and mediums around the city.

This isn’t the first time Lane has performed “Soundtrack City” — the show originated in Lane’s native San Francisco in 2001 and was brought to Chicago in 2005, two years after Lane moved to the city.

“I haven’t done that show in a long long time, but I always bring parts of ‘Soundtrack City’ into my other performances,” Lane said.

A trained actor, in recent years Lane has been focusing on his music career more than stage performances, working on a beatbox harmonica mixtape. He’s also found success on YouTube with his “Harmonica + Beatbox: Final Cut” video from 2007 garnering more than 9 million views.

“That’s what I’m famous for on the internet,” Lane said. “Whatever that means.”

Lane’s unique mix of beatboxing and playing harmonica came about in “Soundtrack City” in 2001, and when he moved to Chicago two years later he continued to hone is craft.

“When I moved to Chicago I said, ‘Oh I better learn how to play this instrument for real’ because there are incredible harmonica players here,” Lane said.

Lane’s free performance is 1 p.m. Oct. 11-12 at Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave. According to Koenen, Lane’s performance is a can’t-miss.

“The thought that goes into [the performance] and the expertise, the playfulness and the joy of how he communicates the history of blues, the birth of hip hop, how those genres fuse together, and how they can be interpreted with just a set of lungs.”

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