CelloJoe's story

Joey Chang aka CelloJoe is an anomaly in the world of cellists.  

Cello + beatboxing + vocals + live looping = Cello Joe  

Cello Joe plays the cello while beatboxing, looping, and singing. It's Classical Hip Hop. He creates fat beats with a cello and his mouth and he does it live!  
His lyrics weave together sustainability, environmental justice, and social awareness. They entertain, inspire, and make you wonder.  

By beatboxing, throatsinging, singing, plucking and bowing the cello, CelloJoe can mimic many styles of music from dubstep to folk to rock to classical to hip hop.  

CelloJoe is the world's first long distance musical bike touring cellist. 
He has ridden his bike over 10,000 miles in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Australia.  

CelloJoe: A Biography

There aren’t very many singing, rapping, beatboxing, cello players in the world. There’s a particularly funny and funky curious one you should remember and he goes by the name of CelloJoe.

Like most cello players, Joseph Abraham Tal Tien-Ru Chang Jr. Senior III esquire (or just Joey for short) started out as a classical cellist. A mild-mannered suburbanite kid from Los Altos, California, Joey began studying the cello at age ten. His first instrument was actually piano which he started at age nine. For the first eight years, there were weekly private lessons and many music summer camps. There were also weekly (four hour long!) youth orchestra rehearsals. And from this fertile classical ground sprang forth a very unusual weed from a crack in the suburbial sidewalk.

Joey discovered playing on the street after eight years of classical training. First, he played his classical repertoire over and over. This practice got old pretty quick. He realized that playing on the street was a great opportunity to begin improvising. After a fair amount of purely instrumental improvisation, he thought that being able to sing and play the cello would be infinitely cool and different and would thus attract more attention and hopefully fill the case with money. Slowly and surely this talent developed. Hip hop had always been part of Joey’s listening diet and because of this habit, beatboxing naturally began to work its way into his improvisations on the street.

University Avenue in Palo Alto California is a pretty ritzy strip. There’s also a sizeable homeless population. A homeless man named Carl would listen to Joey playing often. It was he who coined the moniker “Cello Joe.” Joey sang impromptu songs about the glaring disparities right before his eyes in the wealthy folks and the homeless. Socially conscious and politically active, Joey naturally wove concepts of social and earth justice into his lyrics.

Joey auditioned in Berklee College of Music’s World Scholarship Tour in 2000. He was awarded a scholarship and attended Berklee from 2002-2006 and has since performed all over the world including: USA, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, France, and Spain. Some of the festivals Joey has performed at include: Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle, Festival de Liege (Belgium), Singapore Fringe Festival, FUSION (Germany), Rock for People (Czech Republic), Sziget (Hungary), Oregon Country Fair, Symbiosis (CA, USA), Shambala (BC, Canada), RainDance Camp Out, Sanctuary (Strategik SF,) San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival (BMF), BMFs in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver BC, London, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Marseilles, Toulouse, Barcelona, Sheepdawg Human Calendar Festival (Maui), ArtsWells (BC, Canada), Mystic Garden Party (OR, USA), EarthDance (CA, USA), Starwood (NY), FireDance (CA) and many other places. 

He has played with Joan Baez, Bryonn Bain, the Cello Madness Congress, Justin Ancheta Band, Gabe Dominguez & SHAKE YOUR PEACE!, Paul Freeman aka Fossil Fool, The Ginger Ninjas, StitchCraft, Amanda Mora, Shamanic Sound Ceremony, John Henry's Farm, Amae Love, Clay Chollar, Nicoluminous, Random Rab, Mr. Rogers, Boy Lion, Erma Kyriakos, Rushad Eggleston, the cellist from Tornado Rider, Edan, an internationally acclaimed MC and producer, Roxanne Young, a member of Cirque du Soleil and Barrage, Greg Liszt of The Deadly Gentlemen, and many other notable musicians. As cellist for the band Incus, he toured nationally and played at over forty venues and festivals all over the country. He went on tour with the El Camino Youth Symphony in Europe twice: once to Italy and Austria and once to England and Scotland. He has recorded on many artist’s CDs including Andi Starr, Callow, Alohi, Concept 6, Rebecca Loebe, Pablo Picker and others.

CelloJoe is the world's first long distance musical bike touring cellist. He has ridden his bike over 10,000 miles in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Australia.

In 2007-2008, he rode with the pleasant revolution, a 5,000 mile bike tour from North San Juan, California to Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico. In May 2009, he did a 500 mile bike tour through Utah with SHAKE YOUR PEACE! 

In August 2009, he rode from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in the Pleasant Revolution Northwest Bicycle Music Festival Tour. His ride in 2010 was a seven month odyssey through Europe with the Pleasant Revolution Bicycle Music Tour through England, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, France, and Spain. In addition to being a veritable cello monster, Joey is also very interested in organic farming and has traveled to and worked at organic farms in Canada, the west coast of the U.S. and the island of Maui in Hawaii through the organization WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms or WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms.)

He is currently based in Oakland, CA in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Artist Mission Statement

Making the world a better place one day at time…putting a smile on a stranger’s face.

Cruising through the streets is maniac riding a musical bicycle. There’s a bucket, a cow bell, a tambourine, and a bunch of jingley things strapped to the handle bars. It’s a mobile party. Everywhere the bike goes, people start dancing and shouting and smiles appear on countless faces.

I am that mysterious maniac. The bike drum set is my creation. I have created it to spread the joy of rhythm to everyone who happens to hear me ride by. In a nutshell, that is my artistic mission: to spread joy. 

Of course I have other objectives too. I make music to advance human consciousness as well. Our current mode of existence is out of balance with the natural systems and cycles that sustain us on this beautiful planet. We have many problems to reconcile such as overpopulation, environmental pollution, loss of topsoil, factory farming of livestock, genetic engineering, global warming, war, privatization of water, oil dependence and on and on. These problems all have solutions and collectively we have to solve them if we are going to survive. I’ve always felt that music should have a message. Music is a very powerful force for change and can affect people on a subliminal level. It is a tool for revolution. 

History has shown that musicians, artists, and poets are the catalysts of transformation in society. A great example of this principle is Joe Hill who was a musician who organized unions. The capoeiristas of Brasil used music as a tool for liberation from slavery. The civil rights movement had all their revolutionary songs like “We shall overcome.” Similarly, the protestors of the Vietnam war used music as a tool for resisting the war with songs like “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield. [there’s a man with a  gun over there…] In my mind, folk music is synonymous with using music to make the world a better place. Spreading joy and revolution through music is no easy task. The grease that makes this machine work is humor. I have an intense passion for zany humor. So, naturally, I infuse my music with a healthy dollop of hilarity whenever possible. Humor is the most effective tool for slipping things by and making music of a political nature digestible. A great example of this principle is the song “Little Boxes” by Malvina Reynolds that was popularized by Pete Seeger.Well, everyone has a serious side too. 

My serious side is to use music as an instrument of healing and growth. I believe in the power of vibrations to heal people. Music can be used to enter into a transcendent state of meditation. Ali Akbar Khan said it best when he said, "Real music is not for wealth, not for honors or even for the joys of the mind...but as a path for realization and salvation." I intend to discover more about shamanic drumming and the use of healing instruments such as mbiras, singing bowls, and didjeridoos. Part of my artistic mission is to enrich others and myself with true music, music straight from the heart.