Combine classic training with a hip hop sound, pair a violin with a viola, put them both on stage in the hands of young Black men, and you have music that is fresh, modern, classic, and just plain enjoyable. Black Violin (a.k.a. Kev Marcus and Wil B) brought their unique sound to The Carolina Theatre of Durham on April 5th (after postponed performances in January) and electrified the audience with music that defies definition.
Breaking stereotypes is just what Kevin Sylvester (Kev Marcus) and Wilner Baptiste (Wil B) have done since the two met in a Florida high school. In fact, their whole history together paved the way for their album of the same name. Released in 2015, Stereotypes is the musical history of the boys’ lives. From the moment that they picked up string instruments instead of basketballs or saxophones, they proved how wrong it is for anyone to be prejudged on the basis of gender, race, or country of origin.
Though they loved hip-hop, the two learned classical music and studied the world’s greatest composers in their high school orchestra class. The men determined their own destiny during that time period, but it wasn’t until they studied at different universities that they formed their own production company. From there, they went on to win the “Showtime at the Apollo 2005 Legend” title and realized they had something.
Sylvester has stated that he considers Johann Sebastian Bach “the equalizer” and believes that he is “the closest composer to divinity.” Black Violin plays Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos regularly during their shows, but they give the music their own spin by playing with the beats and improvising in a hip-hop manner.
One realizes when watching them perform that the genius of their work is that they respect the original composition — and we suspect that Bach would not mind the liberties they take with his work. Creativity is the genius of all artistry, and Black Violin’s creative genius is their ability to learn from the best and to take the classics into the future.
The crowd recognizes Black Violin’s standards (“A-flat,” a duel between strings) and cheers them, whether they are onstage alone or accompanied by other musicians who offer accompaniment that makes their sound even more intricate and special. And they weave in music by Ed Sheeran or Wiz Kahlifa with equal aplomb. No matter what they play, the audience is mesmerized and electrified.
The duo knows that their personalities are part of the reason why they pack theaters and the audience at The Carolina Theatre burst into laughter more than once as the talented instrumentalists mocked expectations and stretched perceptions. Though some of the comments prickled in light of the current racial tensions in the country, the strength of the music bridged the divide between classic and hip-hop, rich and poor, white and black. Critics call Black Violin’s music a type of fusion, invented to join the brilliance of Beethoven and Bach with that of Biggie Smalls and the Wu-Tang Clan but, perhaps, this is just the music of the future.
BLACK VIOLIN (The Carolina Theatre of Durham, April 5 in Fletcher Hall).
VIDEO PREVIEWS: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ6uKm4oFR1klaj6HiphcDg?nohtml5=False.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaTheatreDurham, and https://twitter.com/CarolinaDurham.
Black Violin (Ft. Lauderdale, FL-based hip hop duo): http://blackviolin.net/home/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/BlackViolinMusic/ (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/BlackViolin (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Violin (Wikipedia)
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.