On File

Relevents: Edgar Garcia

Edgar Garcia, AKA “Black Rhythm,” is a soldier at the Salvation Army’s San Juan Corps in Puerto Rico. He talks about the importance of serving his community, surviving asthma, and how beatboxing—the art of creating a wide range of percussive sounds using only his lips, mouth, and vocal chords—pushes the limits of his voice.


While growing up, I was surrounded by people driven to serve. I was raised Lutheran, and my grandparents were always involved in serving the community. The concept of service was something that drew me to The Salvation Army. I define service as doing what I can to add value to people’s lives. Right now, this is being done through helping those in need as the Army has done in Puerto Rico for victims of Hurricane Maria. Service can also be something as simple as lifting someone’s spirits. Stage performing is this type of service. Every time performers get on stage, they should use their talent to inspire people.


I’ve had asthma since I was young. When I was 4, the doctor recommended I try swimming to help increase my lung capacity. So, what started as something I did under doctor’s orders, became something I really enjoyed doing. I even competed in national swimming tournaments. Sports like swimming and basketball helped me control my asthma. It was an achievement to say that I went from having to use an asthma pump just to function, to being able to run a mile in under six minutes. Later when I started beatboxing, breath control became an important factor. But because of the sports, my asthma was no longer an issue.


Our voices are gifts from God, and I speak music thanks to Him. Voices are more powerful than we can imagine, and there’s pride in pushing them to their limits. Beatboxing, by nature, is organic and animalistic; in a way, almost feral. It shatters what we think the voice is capable of, expands the palette of sound, and maneuvers our unique selves into musical instruments. Last year, I hosted a TEDx talk on the art of beatboxing. Seeing a theater full of people nodding their heads, tapping their feet, and dancing to the power of my voice was a strong, spiritual experience.


When I was two, I lost my mother to cancer. She was only 30 years old. I was raised by my maternal grandparents. That was a blessing and the best possible situation for me. But living with them was a challenge for us; the generational gap was huge. Today, that gap has closed in many ways. I still live with them, but our relationship is stronger. I can finally pay back the love they gave me and help them in practical ways.


The writer T.S. Eliot said that only people who risk going too far can find out just how far they can go. There are so many things out there that we want to try, but don’t because we fear failure. Becoming Black Rhythm began when I made a decision. It wasn’t something I had planned, expected, or was sure could be done. Although beatboxing was not common in my community, it nonetheless became my contribution to the arts.

interview by Hugo Bravo