It's not every day that a gaggle of white-clad, ruby-lipped "aliens" from another galaxy can belt out the works of Madonna, Mozart, Queen and other musical giants with such aplomb that they leave you completely stunned. So when that day arrives, it's best to seize it.
Behold: the Voca People.
As spellbinding as they are triumphant in their technique, the captivating a cappella troop is fast becoming one of the most popular if not quirkiest musical sensations around. The gang just opened an ongoing stint in San Francisco (see video, below) and have brought down the house in front of audiences in New York City, too. They've also done extremely well internationally.
But who are these guys (and gals)? And where on Earth did the concept originate from?
Several years ago, Lior Kalfo and Shai Fishman, the troop's musical director, co-created the inventive, often humorous show. They wanted to feature "aliens" communicating through song. The result is a speedy and festive romp through music history -- without musical instruments or sound effects, of course. Just their voices.
Photo: Courtesy of Voca People
"It's just different," Fishman says. "Especially now, with shows like The Sing Off and such, people have seen everything. By leaps and bounds, technologically, nothing is shocking any more. We're such an immediate-gratification society, where we move onto the next thing in five minutes. So, I knew I had to do something that hadn't been done before."
Fishman and company go beyond basic a cappella and beat box here and move through more than 70 well-known songs. (Fishman et al basically invented a new musical language, using "notes" that comprise the sounds of guitars, drums and other instruments.)
But creating the arrangements was often grueling, and Fishman describes how there is a reason for each "naga-naga-naga, deeble-deeble bow" that audiences hear. "We're trying to simulate something in a unique way as we create a particular sound and arrangement," he says. "With more than 70 songs a show, we have to keep it moving. You are never going to have time to settle in on a song because we are covering the whole spectrum. That was the idea."
Some of the ideas perhaps were embedded in Fishman's past. He grew up in Israel, listening to soundtracks from the Indiana Jones movies, and watching TV shows such as Dallas and Dynasty -- no doubt soaking up the crescendos in their theme songs -- and studying musical layerings of Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones.
Over the last few years, "Voca People" has surged in popularity, and is adding more international tours. Fishman thinks audiences enjoy it because "it forces people to think about how the performers are doing what they are doing. If people keep asking, 'How in the heck do they do that and make it sound like it sounds,' then ... we've done good."
I recently hit the streets of San Francisco to learn more about this posse. Take a look: