Meet Jasmine Gardosi, the Beatboxing Poet
Spoken word poet and beatboxer Jasmine Gardosi is livening up the scene through their punchy, musical exploration talking about issues regarding LGBT experiences and gender diversity. As the current Birmingham Poet Laureate, Jasmine has been building a name for themself touring their show 'Dancing to Music You Hate' combining poetry, beatbox and Celtic dubstep (think folk music on top of bassy beats).
Having seen Jasmine perform in London at the Cockpit Theatre backed by an incredible group of musicians, we were eager to learn more about the collaborative approach they take to creativity and the way language shapes the perspectives we have of ourselves within society. Expect uplifting conversations about defying gendered stereotypes and using art as a tool for rebuilding past relationships.
Listen to the interview run by our founder Bethany Burgoyne or read on to witness Jasmine live in action.
Jasmine's show 'Dancing To Music You Hate' is one that reflects the spoken word community they have become part of over the years. Starting the night with an open mic session inviting the audience to take part on stage, and backed by an ever-changing group of instrumentalists and vocalists, Jasmine explains how "I don't want it to be the Jasmine show, it's not all about me, it takes a village to create a poet and it took a city to build me...it's because of the people supporting me, it's why I'm able to be where I am and I want that sense of community, different voices on stage, feeling empowered and speaking their truth". Explaining how the whole show is about blending binaries - audience and performers, male and female, music and poetry - they hope to encourage the breaking of divisive structures. This is referenced in the title track ' Dancing To Music You Hate', describing it as that feeling of being an outsider and conforming to fit others' expectations regarding sexuality and gender.
I'm slowly starting to call myself a musician because I get to work with awesome musicians who raise me up and I get to stand on their shoulders and feel cool!
When discussing what shaped Jasmine's mind while growing up, they tell us "There's more in my upbringing that took me away from my identity. I feel like the practice of adulthood is getting back to who you really are before all the filters came and you had to start masking in whatever way." Describing this unlearning process as joyous, Jasmine tells us "What's been really affirming is thinking back to when I was a little kid, what I loved to do, how I was principally so much more masculine, and how much euphoria I had when I could play with (what's considered) more boyish toys, and do karate because I loved the uniform and loved being praised for being masculine - the kicks, the punches, how you hold yourself".
I feel like the practice of adulthood is getting back to who you really are before all the filters came and you had to start masking in whatever way
The pressure to conform arose throughout their teenage years and being in school environments. Jasmine shares how "those things took me away from my identity, especially the paranoia that can happen, particularly in girls' circles in the places I grew up in" regarding being gay and existing outside the gender norm. "It was not an option to be outside of anything that was expected....so it was interesting to have the thought cross my mind when I was 17, with a boyfriend who I wasn't attracted to, that I'd rather go my whole life not being love than put myself out there and be with a girl and deal with that shame." This reality is one that many people can relate to, silently struggling against the heteronormative, binary gender structures.
When discussing this journey of reclaiming our core identity, Jasmine explains "art helps; poetry, writing, surrounding yourself with [creativity]." They tell us how "At an open mic night, they often feel like queer spaces because you're allowed to be yourself - the point of poetry is to tell your truth. Those spaces really really shaped me". Since becoming Poet Laureate, Jasmine's found people from their past have got back in touch, reconnecting over their queerness which they explains is lovely. Crediting lockdown for giving them space away from outside noise, Jasmine shares how "I could truly tap into what was going on inside me gender wise which I hadn't been able to do before". This is something that leads us to discuss the importance of having examples to look up to.
Everybody needs gender affirmation and deserves gender euphoria - with your cis, trans, nonbinary - because everybody deserves to feel they are enough in their gender identity
One of those people of influence was Alok Vaid-Menon and their book 'Beyond The Gender Binary'. "It's a teeny tiny pocketbook. You can hold it against your butt at all times! That book changed my mind...they articulate themself so well about gender, about power, about how all this relates to race." One stand-out sentiment stayed with Jasmine about "how maybe there are as many ways of being a woman as there are women and it's such an expansive read. I recommend it to anyone and it gave me the juice to write this poem." This coincided with Jasmine forming a band for the first time. Made up of predominantly straight males, Jasmine found they were beautiful allies and so "I realised the show we were making, I didn't want it to just be for the trans and genderqueer community, I wanted it to be for them." The impact Jasmine's work had on their band and the way they responded "was so affirming which solidified my belief that everybody needs gender affirmation and deserves gender euphoria - with your cis, trans, nonbinary - because we're told we fail feminity or masculinity all the time. But everybody deserves to feel they are enough".
Another major shift in Jasmine's creative career has been the way others identify them and their work. Having been called a feminist poet during their formative years Jasmine tells us how "I would write poems about the female-bodied experience, I was writing a lot about periods and people responded to it because it was a bit of shock factor. But I'm happy I've moved away that, away from the idea that that defines women as well." Today, Jasmine enjoys relating more to queerness rather than feminism because of their draw to gender fuckery. However, looking back on feminism's influence during school years, Jasmine notes how "at the time, [feminism] felt like the only movement that was fighting for something that was fighting for me, even tho I don't identify as female. There was something empowering about a movement that fought for those who had felt marginalised by their gender". This is something we resonate with and endorse. As Jasmine puts it "anything that challenges the patriarchy benefits everyone. Because men, women, non-binary people are hurt by the patriarchy and feminism, in its best self, positions itself against the patriarchy".
Anything that challenges the patriarchy benefits everyone. Because men, women, non-binary people are hurt by the patriarchy
Identifying as trans masc and queering is something that Jasmine discusses in regards to their sassy side."I love bringing some sort of fuckery energy on stage and creative spaces are a beautiful way to do that because the point of art is the opposite of replication, of being the same, its the art of being different". Because of this philosophy, Jasmine both treasures their chance to be in that world, as well as prioritising making these spaces one for collaboration rather than competition - something that all too often is found within creative industries.
The confidence that Jasmine embodies on stage and the power of their poems is something many will look up to. However, when discussing the journey to feeling comfortable performing, Jasmine tells us how "People look at me and think I've been performing my whole life but that's not true. When I was younger I really struggled with speech. Speaking to people outside my friendship group, at the check out in shops - I couldn't do it. I had to get hypnosis and therapy so that I could actually speak to people again!" This challenge of having a speech impendent is something Jasmine tells us followed them throughout their whole life. Because of this, Jasmine hopes it will inspire others witnessing their work to feel encouraged knowing there are always ways to grow in confidence and overcome barriers that limit self-expression and public performance.
Creative environments for art, music, and poetry are where we get to say my soul is different from yours, this is what mine has to offer; isn't it beautiful - let's celebrate that!
As we end our conversation with Jasmine, they tell us how much they look up to Kae Tempest and how they'd love to be someone who's known for changing the game in a similar way "to make new, to innovate the artform but also change the conversation, especially around gender". From this angle, Jasmine is already doing just that - inspiring and uplifting through their beatboxing, spoken word magic one performance at a time. We can't wait to see where their future takes them, reaching new audiences across the UK and beyond.
When do you feel most confident?
When I am alone writing - got my headphones on banging some sick beat and I'm in my flow. I feel I can take over the world
What key experience has shaped you positively?
Standing on stage for one of the first times and getting a massive cheer after performing one of my poems, sitting back down and this older lady turning round and saying 'you could be a spoken word poet'.
One dream you wish to come true?
I want to tour in all the lovely concert venues and to places internationally
One law you want to change or cause that is close to your heart?
Reducing the waiting time for gender-affirming support and care. It used to be 3-4 years until you'd have your first appointment at the moment, now its 5 years and up
Best thing about being you?
That I'm so fucked - all the fuckery that I thought was not ok, whether it was my sexuality, my gender identity, my neuro divergence, that's all the stuff that makes me so fun, cool and creative.
Name your Sassy tracklist
Dancing to music you hate
Hold Your Own - Kae Tempest
Tightrope - Janelle Monae
Check out Jasmine's work via their website jasminegardosi.com or via IG @jasminegardosi
Interview and portraits by Bethany Burgoyne @bxsassy2