By Walter Rutledge
Black Violin, the classically trained duo violist and violinist duo of Wilner Baptiste (Wil B.) and Kevin Sylvester (Kev Marcus), opened the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College 2016- 2017 season with classic style. Accompanied by DJ SPS on turntables and Nathaniel Strokes on drums Black Violins performed a varied program to a packed diverse audience. Billed as Black Violin: The Unity Tour Wil B. and Kev Marcus have taken their classical background combined with their love of hip-hop and created a truly signature multi genre sound they refer to as “classical boom”.
The concert opened with music from their 2015 album befittingly entitled Stereotypes, because many aspects of the concert were designed to dispel misconceptions. The 75-minute one act eclectic performance ranged from Bach to Jay- Z. “You know, hip-hop and classical, in a lot of ways, are both party music for different eras”, explains Marcus. The audience showed their approval by standing and dancing in the aisle for most of the evening.
Black Violin- Stereotypes
The uncluttered stage design created an intimate performance setting, which allowed for more introspective moments like Wil B.’s Pizzicato and vocal performance of Radioactive. While the rock and roll style lighting complimented more soulful moments like Lets Get It On. By blurring the lines between music genres Black Violin is introducing their love of classical music to a new generation.
The pair met while attending Dillard High School of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida. The two performed in the school orchestra and shared the same music teacher. But it was their mutual love for hip-hop that cemented their friendship and peeked the musical exploration.
After high school both men received full music scholarships (Wil B. attended Florida State University and Kev Marcus Florida International University) and reunited after college to create the music they loved. In 2005 the duo earned international attention after winning the Showtime At The Apollo Top Dog. “After we won the Apollo, which is the hardest audience on the planet, we knew there was something there…The hard thing was to package it so that people would give us a chance, because we were doing something that nobody had ever seen. Every time we step on stage, we had to prove it over and over”, said Marcus.
Black Violin ( 3rd Performance – Apollo Amatuer Night 2005 )
Now Black Violin has nothing to prove and everything to give. Currently touring the US and Europe the group has made a strong commitment to educational outreach. Over the last twelve months Black Violin has performed for more than one hundred thousand school age young people.
The program ended with a Black Violin rendition of the Shaker Melody from Aaron Copland Appalachian Spring. Copeland’s 1945 masterwork, which was the score for the Martha Graham work of the same name, received a Pulitzer Prize for Music. It was so fitting Black Violin closed with this true slice of Americana, because this group is living the American dream.