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Black Violin come with no strings attached

Duo combining hip-hop, classical in performances


Joshua Schipper

Whatzup Features Writer

Published April 27, 2022

A crisp look at classical music through the lens of hip-hop will greet concertgoers at Honeywell Center when Black Violin performs in Wabash on Saturday, May 7.

Representatives for the duo say Black Violin “combine their classical training and hip-hop influences to provide a high energy entertainment experience fit for all ages. Black Violin aims to inspire, uplift, and entertain their audiences through their music, while encouraging people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds to join together to break down cultural barriers.”

Something Different

According to Kevin Sylvester, who goes by Kev Marcus, the formation of Black Violin came almost by accident.

“We wanted to be hip(-hop) producers, but people kept being drawn to us playing the violin,” he told the Medford (Mass.) Patch. “We didn’t know we could turn it into a career until we started seeing people’s reaction to it, they would just lose their minds, and we thought, ‘Maybe we can make money doing this.’

“We think of it as a real responsibility of ours to provide positive representation on who can play the violin,” he added. “We try to help kids in various ways, especially through our Black Violin Foundation.”

According to television station WFMZ in Pennsylvania, Marcus said it was his mother who influenced him to pick up the violin.

“As soon as I got into it, it was cool and I liked it, and I had friends in my class that played,” Marcus said.

The station also reported Black Violin gives back to the community with their foundation, which helps young musicians obtain instruments and attend music camps.

“We’re Black Violin because there were a lot of people along the way that kind of helped us, and we wouldn’t have been able to get to this level without that,” Marcus said.

Breaking Stereotypes

Virginia television station WDBJ reported another aim of Black Violin is to “break stereotypes” with their unique sound.

“When you think about the violin, it’s typically in a box,” violist Wilner Baptiste, who goes by Wil B., told the station. “You think of ballet music or orchestra. Also, who actually plays the violin? Not someone that typically looks like me. So we’re breaking stereotypes in so many different ways.”

Part of this unique sound, according to the New Mexico newspaper Pasatiempo, is that Black Violin blend hip-hop “with classical playing techniques (and sometimes repertory) to create a one-of-a-kind sound and a dynamic performance environment.”

According to NPR, “Race and challenging assumptions about race is central to what Black Violin does.

“Outside of playing for fun or for creative expression, Marcus finds it particularly satisfying to disarm people who don’t expect him to be a violin scholar,” the station reported. “ ‘The No. 1 reason I play violin,’ he says, ‘is because I’m not ‘supposed to.’ ”

Inspiring Listeners

According to the California newspaper Enterprise-Record, the duo met at Dillard School for the Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“They both studied music and took orchestra classes in middle and high school,” the newspaper reported. “They started performing together after high school and became producers.”

The creative process that goes into Black Violin is an important part of Wil B.’s life, and this was especially true in light of the coronavirus pandemic according to a 2021 interview with NPR.

“Being creative is my outlet, it’s my way of venting,” he said. “And doing the song, and going through the process … there’s just so much to say. There’s a lot going on. So, how do we convey this in a way that, at the end of it, people feel inspired, people feel like, ‘OK, here’s the light at the end of the tunnel’? ”

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