The Magnets, the London-based a cappella outfit who recently performed at a music festival in the city, talk about their style of sans-instrument music
Meet The Magnets — the British a cappella group comprising Scarcella Damion Charles, Conway Michael James, Mclntosh Callum Gordon, Sheehy John Anthony, Sandilands Duncan Eric Jarvis and MC Zani. When we caught up with them in their room after their performance at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender Music Festival, they seemed to be a happy lot, pulling each other’s leg at every chance they got and making the most of their visit to India.
It was a jaw-dropping moment for the audience when the outfit did a mash-up of Enrique Iglesias’ Tonight I’m Lovin’ You and Dilliwali Girlfriend from the film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. How did they plan this surprise for their audience? “I did a little research on Indian a cappella, and I found that this Indian band called Pen Masala did a great version of Dilli Wali Girlfriend. It was a kind of a take on what they do as well. I thought it will be a really good way to introduce ourselves to the audience in India. We’ve got more such mash-ups up our sleeves for our other gigs,” says McIntosh.
The group also sang their version of Chammak Challo at a gig in Mumbai, and left for home on Sunday. “This is our second trip, and we have our fingers crossed to come back next year as well. But for now, we have to head back to the UK. I don’t want to go back home because it is so cold there now. India has been amazing, the people are so friendly,” says Conway.
Being an a cappella band definitely has its advantages, like not worrying to travel with heavy instruments on tour. But it really isn’t as simple as that. A lot of practice goes into getting perfect synchronisation and putting up a spectacular show every time. “We don’t have equipment and that’s, well, good. But there’s quite a lot of work involved in our performances. Also, because there are no instruments involved and it’s just the six of us on stage, if something goes even slightly wrong, it’s very obvious,” says McIntosh, as Conway adds, “But then you can always get up and rehearse anywhere you want.” Scarcella shares, “I think just singing together, connecting with voices — that’s the great thing about a cappella.”
If we haven’t stressed this enough already, let’s say it one more time: there’s a lot of practice involved in this genre of music. “We put up a new act every year for the Edinburgh Festival. So we have to rehearse at length for that. Then as we do the gigs during the year, we get together and rehearse. If we have to do new music, we make it and send it out to the others with their parts to learn it and then we get together to rehearse,” says McIntosh as Conway adds, “We have to do our homework before the practice, which is to learn our individual parts.” Scarcella also says, “Everyone learns their parts and then the puzzle fits when we all come together.”
If you catch their performance live, you will notice that it’s not just about the singing, but they also manage to pull off a choreography on the stage without missing a beat. “Our performance is something everyone will enjoy. There has to be something for everyone. Since our audience is made up of lots of different age groups, we incorporate different styles in our act. And that’s been one of our biggest selling points. Families can bring along the kids for the show, you can come with your uncles and aunties, best friends — everyone’s welcome,” says McIntosh.
While all the singers have solo parts and give each song a different spin of their own, Zani brings the beat. He is the beatboxer who performed a solo beat-boxing session which blew people’s minds at the festival. At one point, he placed the microphone on his neck and amplified the sound he was making from his throat.
“I’ve been beatboxing for 16-17 years now. I was a drummer as well, so I already had a sense of rhythm. I saw a beat boxer once, but then beat-boxing wasn’t a main thing as it is now. Now, we have a worldwide community, I am a part of The Beatbox Collective which also features other World Beatbox Champions. We go around the world and do shows,” he signs off.