I just received the gutting news that another Campfire team member - the talented musician Tobias Tug died today. I knew that he had been suffering from cancer for some time but his demise has taken many by surprised. His musical adventurism and groundbreaking beatboxing pushed new directions for vocal improvisation in particular and his initiative gave birth to The Campfire Circle Singers when he spontaneously gathered a group of circle singer at our London Convention two years ago - a moment that evolved into an epic remix project for the track Sa Ta Na Ma. Tobi added a later lead vocal, "phoning it in" from Germany (an approach we love employ at Campfire studios)
I had worked with Tobi since Big Chill days when he was in The Swingle Singers and his helping hand teamed me up with them for my own Chilled By Nature album. I will miss him terribly as will make of his friends and followers around the world.
Watch his first Campfire Circle singing https://youtu.be/Hcejs8oKnFo
The evolution of the track for me demonstrates the creative potency of collaboration. It has already been through several stages in its journey, given birth at the spontaneous, joyous circle singing led by facilitator @Tobias Hug at the Campfire meeting in London in November which I fortuitously managed to capture on my iPhone, followed by the positive reaction that was flowing after the event about this session.
I spoke to Tobi about his discovery of circle singing and what it meant to him:
"I’m a singer, beatboxer, choir conductor and ensemble leader as well as a programmer for acappella festival. I was in The Swingles for eleven years and am now a member of Beatbox Collective. I like to organise or facilitate music, teach it and perform it, freelancing, meandering and voyaging around the world, travelling between different vocal events, beatbox festivals etc
My discovery of circle singing came about Bobby McFerrin who is very much a one man orchestra, it’s incredible how he uses his voice in very instrumental ways, singing all the parts at once. Whole concerts can improvised, using the voice and basing the whole thing on improvisation. He creates little motifs and gets the circle to repeat the sections, once he’s created two, three, four of these interlocking motifs, it becomes a very powerful musical moment - the spontaneous nature is what gives it much of that power. The concept is to loop little motifs - looping is repeating and it is a psychologically powerful tool where you are likely to get yourself into trace like state through the sheer repetition. That tool is used in musical forms - canon, round sound, ground bass and is also used in religious practice like a mantra or prayer where people get into a trance-like state through repetition. It is also about connecting with other people, circle singing is powerful, beautiful and easy, you don’t have to be a singer or very skilled. It’s very democratic and you can develop it into quite a sophisticated art form."
A vocal whizzkid, explorer of the human voice, compassionate and inspiring teacher, consummate performer - Tobias Hug has been teaching, singing and jamming around the world for the past 15 years.
Based in London and Germany more recently since his illness, Tobias had been one of the longest-serving members of Grammy-Award winning a cappella legends The Swingle Singers which he left in 2012.
As their bass and vocal percussionist he sung with them for over 11 years, recorded six studio albums, and performed more than 700 concerts in the world's greatest concert halls (from Teatro alla Scala to the Kremlin Palace), with the great orchestras (from the Vienna Philharmonic to the Boston Pops) and great artists (from Zubin Mehta to Jamie Cullum). As their former artistic director he set up many collaborations and projects, as well as TV appearances. Together with beatboxer Shlomo (featured on Björk's album "Medullah"), Artist in Residence at the Southbank Centre, he initiated the world's first beatbox choir (now the "Vocal Orchestra") which comprised the Swingles and five of the UK's top beatboxers. The Swingles or Tobias' music has been featured on the hit TV show "Glee", on the Monty Python Movie as well as adverts such as T-Mobile's "Welcome home" campaign which had more than 10 Million hits on YouTube.
Born in midst of the Black Forest, in Freiburg, Germany, Tobias got involved in music from an early age. Soon a keen choir singer, Tobias never limited himself to one style of music, but explored all aspects of singing- be it in a chamber choir, the award-winning Jazzchor Freiburg or mongolian throat singing and beatboxing. He started his first a cappella group while studying music education at the Musikhochschule Trossingen, After more than a decade in the Swingle Singers Tobias left to focus on teaching, studying, performing as a soloist and managing. Tobias was also a much sought-after collaborator.
Fellow Swingle Singers group member Julie Kench posted today "Tobi and I spent 5 years touring the world performing with The Swingle Singers and I can honestly say Tobi was one of a kind. He had friends in every country and had an incredible ability to draw a crowd wherever we went. Warm and generous, he grabbed life with both hands to find new experiences and develop new talents ( of which he had bundles). I will always remember Tobi’s deep resonating voice and incredible vocal percussion and in particular the sound of his low notes resonating through his chest whilst receiving a Tobi ‘hug’. Free from pain, pass gently my friend and I hope you are organising a circle song with the angels"
His untimely death comes in the same week as fellow Campfire musical adventurer Graeme Holdaway who also collaborated on the Circle Singers Projects.
Hear Tobi on a Campfire Firecast and read the story of a remix here