The thunderstorms had already started rumbling through the Triangle region when Outback Concerts’ Saturday, Aug. 18th, presentation of Black Violin: The Classical Boom Tour commenced at the Koka Booth Amphitheater in Regency Park in Cary, NC; but that didn’t matter to the pair of classically-trained violinists who perform as Black Violin. While lightning flashed behind the stage and large raindrops sent some listeners running for cover, the two-man phenom tore up the Koka Booth with — believe it or not — some hot classical violins!
Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste (stage names: Kev Marcus and Wil B) didn’t come willingly to their profession. Most kids don’t suddenly decide to pick up the violin. They want to be pianists or sax players or to bang on the drums. But Kev and Wil found themselves practicing scales on violin together in the school band’s classroom and putting their own spin on classical musicand hip-hop in their spare time. Somehow, they managed to tie the two disparate forms of music together, putting their spin on the genre and totally flipping the script.
To emphasize their uniqueness in the music industry, all one has to point out is that a little more than a year ago, the duo performed at The Carolina Theatre of Durham, and now their fan base has grown so much that the Koka Booth Amphitheatre was fairly full in spite of bad weather reports.
There is no one else in the music industry doing what this pair of long-term friends are now doing, and it will probably be a very long time before they have any competition in this field — not only because they both play phenomenal violin, but also because of the package they bring to a performance.
Since their grammar-school days, Sylvester and Baptiste have perfected their performance by not only becoming what they call “bad-ass violinists,” but also expanding their musical knowledge to include other instruments (Wil, who plays a viola named Tiffany, also plays a pretty mean piano and sings rather well, too).
Add to their bag of tricks the stage patter that reveals a tight friendship and respect between the two very different men, and the additional talent of Nat Stokes, their talented drummer, and the versatile DJ SBS on the mixer and sound board; and you have one well-rounded and multitalented stage-full of performers.
Though the Black Violin duo’s talent might lie in creating perfectly braided harmonies and cutting notes to smithereens with their razor-sharp bow work, it is their different approaches that makes them interesting. Wil’s glasses, white shirt, and baggy cargo shorts make him appear like the geek of the pair, yet his love affair with Tiffany (the viola) and his ability to sing smooth jazz like John Legend give him a smoky, sexy edge.
Kev’s baseball lid and clear Lucite electric violin define him as the more hip of the pair. One wonders if they make that distinction to remind the audience that they are also playing different instruments.
The evening’s play list is as varied and interesting as the men themselves. From Mozart to Ed Sheeran to Nicki Minaj, the song choice is continually surprising and always interesting. “A Flat” features the deeper, throatier tones of the viola and incorporates basic fingering and bow techniques that Black Violin had practiced a million times in their younger days.
As tight and classic as that number was, there are others that follow that reveal yet another side. By their 10th song, the duo ripped into a totally improvised song that they promise changes with every performance. While the sky lit with lightning, they filled the stage with the sound of jamming violins, then produced a synthesized sound that literally competed with the heavenly show rocking the world around the city.
Throughout the show, speakers were covered, umbrellas were lowered (for fear of lightning strikes), and Koka Booth Amphitheatre patrons endured the rain in order to enjoy the performance. But it was well worth the dampness and the showers that occasionally drenched the crowd, because the music soared into the night time sky like a message for the gods — both contemporary and ancient.
If you have any love for hip-hop or classical music (and, yes, the two can exist on one stage), the music produced by Black Violin will both stun you and make you smile. You won’t find anyone else like this on the music scene. Watch for them. Their inimitable style and off-the-charts talent can rivet you to your seat or bring you out of your chair to dance in the aisle. They’re only going to get better as they build more of a following. It’s possible that the next time that they come to town, their show will be sold out. That’s how good they are.
The Black Violin: The Classical Boom Tour continues into May 2019. Find them and treat yourself to great music and the sound of finely played strings.
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 17th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Ed Condran: https://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article216168290.html.
BLACK VIOLIN: THE CLASSICAL BOOM TOUR (Outback Concerts, Aug. 18 on Koka Booth Amphitheatre in in Regency Park in Cary, NC).
SHOW: http://boothamphitheatre.com/event/black-violin/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/2033456263570144/.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ6uKm4oFR1klaj6HiphcDg.
THE TOUR: http://blackviolin.net/, https://www.facebook.com/BlackViolinMusic, https://twitter.com/BlackViolin, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ6uKm4oFR1klaj6HiphcDg.
PRESENTER: https://www.outbackconcerts.com/, https://www.facebook.com/OBConcerts, and https://twitter.com/OutbackConcerts.
VENUE: http://boothamphitheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/BoothAmphitheatre, and https://twitter.com/boothamp.
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.