He’s just turned 22, but rhythm master Uday Jagda has already shared the stage with De La Soul  and Erykah Badu and has a song featured on an album released in the UAE last night.
That’s pretty good going for someone who doesn’t sing or play a musical instrument and only discovered his talent by accident.
Uday, or Beatbox Ray as he’s known in the industry, is an expert in ‘vocal percussion’ - the art of producing drum beats and other musical sounds using just his voice.
Known on the local music scene, he’s one of several UAE-based musicians being given the chance to gain mass appeal by featuring on ‘Sikka Score Vol. 1’ - the first edition of an album series commissioned in the UAE.
The CD, dedicated exclusively to homegrown talent, is an eclectic compilation of emerging Emirati and UAE-based talents who’ve been asked to create new music as part of Sikka Art Fair.
Explaining how he first realised his talent, Indian expat ‘Ray’, who was born and raised in the UAE, says: “I discovered I could do it four years ago. I was inspired by a friend of mine who told me what I was doing, I just thought I was spitting. I didn’t know what beatboxing was so I googled it and started practising. I watched videos and joined forums.”
He has worked hard to hone his skill - Ray once spent four months in his room practising beats - only emerging for food.
His voice may be the only instrument he has to get to grips with, but perfecting sounds takes time.
Ray says: “In the beginning it was all about the basic beats. You learn the basic drums and then, every beatboxer will say this, you copy your favourite beatboxer from Youtube and then you create some original sounds, like a trumpet sound, for example. You get some signature sounds the more you practise. I have a couple of them - an electric guitar sound and a police siren.”
Working a day job in accounts at an insurance firm is a world away from his life on the urban music scene and drum’n’bass fan Ray - whose beats have been featured on commercials for Kodak and Blackberry - sometimes struggles to maintain dual identities.
He adds: “It’s a pretty weird combination because if people there [in the office] saw me on stage in my hip hop clothes and cap, they’d have no idea who I was.
“Sometimes I can’t control my beats though. When you make music from the mouth it’s difficult to control it. When you play guitar, you have to find an amp but when it’s from your mouth, you slip up. Sometimes I do it and then try to cover it up.
“Sometimes I make water drop sounds at work and people wonder where the heck it comes from, it’s good fun!”
Ray has a message to the music-loving public about supporting homegrown talent.
He adds: “This album [Sikka Score] has been a long time coming but finally someone has done something. The artists over here are 10 times better than anyone who’s ‘made it’ commercially. Most of the performers here are heavy-duty singers, they can rip things up - they’re really good. People should get out and see them more, appreciate the talent you have right here in the UAE.”
IN TUNE WITH SOCIETY
Beatboxing isn’t the only talent being demonstrated on the new Sikka album.
Songs by Nigerian R’n’B/funk bassist Shay and Emirati acappella vocalist Nada Dada also make the cut.
Music fans in the UAE can also check out the skills of Bulgarian classical guitarist Valentin Spasov and American acoustic artist Harrison Rice by picking up a copy of the CD.
Khalil Abdulwahid, Manager of Visual Arts at Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, says he’s very excited about the album. He explains: “The launch underlines the success of Sikka as a springboard to launch the UAE’s emerging musical talent.
“Three years ago, Sikka Art Fair was established to serve as a key platform to showcase our talent while allowing them [local artists] to reach out to a wider audience. ‘Sikka Score’ complements a key goal of Sikka 2013 to nurture a new generation of artists across all spectrums of disciplines, especially in music, bringing this diverse group of artists together for an eclectic compilation.”
The Sikka album is priced at Dhs50 and is on sale now at DUCTAC theatre, Mall of the Emirates