Black Violin: Reaching Way Outside the Box


It’s certainly the first time WC has seen a concert violinist use a wah-wah pedal. But WC is starting in the middle.

Black Violin is Wil Baptiste and Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester, classically trained violinists (Baptiste actually played viola for the show), backed by a epic-class drummer Jermaine McQueen, or Beatdown, and Dwayne Dayal, known as DJ TK, who busily worked turntables.

Classical Music to Hip Hop Rhythms

Classical Music to Hip Hop Rhythms

The range of music Black Violin performs is very impressive. Classical music, classical music to hip hop rhythms, improvisational jazz, rap, pop ballads, R & B and more stuff that is impossible to classify. Both Baptiste and Sylvester did tunes playing their instruments like guitars; Baptiste even recorded a fuzzy, distortion-filled loop and then played against the loop, accompanied by the rest of Black Violin.

Definitely Playing the Viola Outside of the Box

Definitely Playing the Viola Outside of the Box

After asking the audience’s permission, they performed a straight-up cover of Felix Mendelsohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844). Although Mendelsohn might have been surprised by the drums crashing in at the start of the second movement. 

Wil B on Keyboards

Wil B on Keyboards

One of the surprises for WC was Baptiste’s smooth, easy voice. He did a couple nice R & B ballads, but the songs still carried the signature Black Violin strings and hip hop inflected rhythms.

Sylvester: Violin with a Wah-Wah Pedal

Sylvester: Violin with a Wah-Wah Pedal

And yes, Sylvester really does sometimes use a wah-wah pedal with his violin. And you know what? It works.

Fairbanks Concert Association is going to get pushback from some of the more . . . staid . . . members of its regular audience. This was not your typical FCA concert; it was loud, there was actual rap music and folks were dancing in the aisles. An elderly couple seated near WC and Mrs. WC spent most of the show huddled down in their seats, hands clamped firmly over their ears.

But if FCA is going to remain relevant, if it going to appeal to audiences under 55 years old, this is the kind of act it needs to bring. Black Violin has a genuine new sound, a fusion of classical, pop and rap. It’s very cool to hear the Brandenberg Concertos performed with a polyphonic backbeat. WC thinks Bach would have approved.

Props to FCA. Thanks to Black Violin. It was a great show.

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