Beatboxin’, loop station-packin’ one-man-band Shero, aka Adam Baluch, has been dropping jaws on Dubai’s gig circuit for years. His secret weapons are an ability to create a percussive presence with just his voice… and a magical box he uses to sample and loop his beats, layering multiple guitar parts to create a funk-folk barrage. Recently the half-American, half-Ugandan, UAE-born talent teamed up with Brazilian eight-string guitar wizard Ziryab; together, as Few As Much, they perform four nights a week at Jambase and The Stables, reassembling popular tunes on stage. The next project for 31-year-old Shero Baluch is perhaps his most bizarre: performing alongside a 50-piece Filipino choir at The Fridge on Monday June 18. We found out more.
He started life as a trumpeter and didn’t pick up a guitar until he was in his twenties.
‘I was home-schooled so I had a lot of time on my hands – I’d sit at the table messing around with noises. Someone said: “If you wanna do music, you gotta put that trumpet down and get a guitar.” When I played guitar I wanted a groove behind it so I’d do some beatboxing, then some singing, then some beatboxing. Then someone else said: “Get a loop station, then you can have the beat all the time”. Over time
I realised that was my sound.’
He was asked to perform with Dubai Vocal Ensemble after assembling a choir for his last gig at The Fridge, in May 2011.
‘I wrote a piece about five years ago, which I did last year with a small choir – just my sister and friends – and it was awesome. A lot of people wanted to hear that song again, so I got invited back. Doing it with a 50-piece choir will have a whole lot more punch. It’s called “Mankind”, and it has an uplifting spirit. It’s about going through childhood and trouble, and it touches a lot of people.’
It was through that same gig that Shero met his sparring partner, eight-string guitarist Ziryab (aka Cassiano De Sa).
‘I met him through his wife, who I grew up with. I was playing this concert and I really wanted to play with another guitarist, but I couldn’t find anyone. Then about five days before the gig my sister was talking about this guy, so I gave him a call and it just clicked. We nailed the gig: no one could tell we’d just met. We come from totally different places – I’m folk, classical, funk, and he listens to Brazilian guitar guys and a lot of metal – but we meet in the middle.’
The duo is called Few As Much because they make a big sound on stage with just two people – but it’s harder to replicate on record.
‘It’s tricky – how do you record yourself and get the raw sounds to sound big? Beatboxing is the base of it all, but we still want a really big, punchy sound. There are no drums, no electronics. But we’re on our way, we want to have a few songs done by October and an album not long after.’
‘Shero’ is his given middle name – and the name of a successful band he fronted in Australia.
‘Five or six years ago I got an eight-piece band together in Australia. It turned out great, but it wasn’t where I was artistically. I realised what I do best: I can do a beat, play the guitar, and sing – that’s what people were responding to. That holds more impact than the biggest band. That was the start of where my sound is today.’
Few as Much play Jambase Wed and Sat 8.45pm-1.45am, and The Stables Tue and Fri (times TBC). Dubai Vocal Ensemble and Shero perform on Monday June 18 at The Fridge, Al Quoz; tickets Dhs50 (04 347 7793).