An Interview with Shai Fishman – Co-Creator, Arranger and Musical Director of the Voca People

Photo by Leon SokoletskiWhere did the idea to form the Voca People come from?

Shai Fishman: Lior Kalfo – the director of the show – approached me about five years ago with an idea for an a cappella and beat box musical comedy show. I am a great fan of a cappella and vocal arrangements are one of my strengths, so I jumped at the opportunity. We spent a long time figuring out how to make this show special and unique, since we knew there were a lot of wonderful a cappella groups out there, such as Take 6 and Naturally 7…

Slowly but surely, musical ideas began to develop in my mind for a new concept for the arrangements.  I didn’t want the Vocas to have a classic a cappella sound, but instead wanted to preserve and accentuate the original arrangements and well-known musical riffs of popular songs. In a sense, I wanted the Voca People to have a musical language of their own – with their own way of simulating guitars, brass, percussion, drums and bass. This, combined with the show’s storyline, is what made this project so innovative. Together with the Vocas, we brought something incredibly unique to a field that needed new inspiration.

How did the group members meet?

Shai: We wanted to form an ‘elite squad’ of musical talents, so only the most talented, gifted out-of-this-world talents were carefully chosen. They needed to have skills not only as singers and beat boxing; they also need topossess comic and dancing skills

Why did they choose the white motif for their costumes and make-up?

Shai: It’s a show unlike any other show. There are no stars but the music itself. The Voca People are aliens in the sense that they have unearthly abilities. it’s an ‘outsider’s’ view on Earth’s music, unique arrangements (medleys) containing over 100 well-known hits, beloved melodies and themes from all times . 

The show is filled with love of music and humour, and maybe the most important thing is that it’s an innocent and ego-less show. Music and harmonies are the real stars. It is a great way of shifting the focus of the a cappella, so that it becomes much more than just singing.  It is about a simple, yet captivating, story, in which music becomes the language that bridges the gap between aliens and humans, who have no other way of communicating .

What kind of vocal training is required for their live shows?

Shai: Exceptional! It starts with the fact that they have unbelievable skills and unique vocal capabilities. The rest is very hard work as a cappella and beat box require perfect harmony and accuracy to recreate the sound of a full orchestra without using any musical instruments

 What are the criteria when choosing the repertoire of the shows?

Shai:  Most of the music in our show is popular/well-known music. I wanted to help the Vocas strike a chord with anyone who watches the show, from a kid in China to a grandfather in Italy. I was going for the most well-known, critically acclaimed artists and their songs. I knew I was taking a risk by tackling songs most arrangers wouldn’t dare to touch, because they will inevitably be compared to the originals. With songs by the Beatles, Queen and Michael Jackson, I knew that unless I created arrangements that balanced my ideas with the magic of the originals, I’d be at risk of the show being too ‘karaoke’. There’s also something

wonderful that happens when the audience recognizes the songs, even before a word has been sung, because the arrangement is so exact and true to the original. For example, when we deliver the opening to ‘Billy Jean’, the famous bass line plays and people recognize it even before the lyrics are sung. They thoroughly enjoy it, because they are more involved.

 How much improvisation is there in the show?

Shai: When it comes to music – 0%!  Yet each show is a unique evening as Voca People interact with their crowd and together, a magical journey through earth’s greatest music is being formed. They go down to the audience and include it in the experience; sometimes they even bring members of the audience to the stage.  These moments are improvised and open to the Voca People’s creativity – and the audience always loves it!

Which do you think is the secret of the Voca People’s worldwide success?

Shai: Fortunately the audience reacts to the show almost hysterically, as if Michael Jackson just appeared on stage; people scream, shout and wildly applaud! The show is understood very well around the world, from Brazil to Italy, USA, France and Mexico – everybody loves the songs and understands the humor. At the end of the Show, people are on their feet, stomping their feet, dancing and singing. Often we might see a grandfather with his grandchild in the audience, both equally enjoying the show and dancing together. I guess that anybody who loves and appreciates music and sees the show can rediscover their ‘inner child’ for an hour and a half.

What message do the group want to give to the audience?

Shai: (laughing) Make music, not war! Music is one of the most powerful forces in nature and it can become an intercultural bridge. Enjoy. Sing. Laugh. İnteract with your inner child through the music of the Voca People. 

Voca People are at Darlington Civic Theatre on Monday 18 May, 7.30pm

Tickets* £18 & £20

To book contact the Box Office on 01325 486 555 or visit

*Includes a £1 restoration levy