by Ayanna Jacobs-El
The string duo Black Violin is intent on breaking stereotypes and bringing great music to the masses. The duo includes Kevin “Kev Marcus” Sylvester on electric violin and William “Wil B.” Baptiste on acoustic viola. The two string players met in high school in orchestra class. They later decided to experiment with blending genres like classical and hip-hop and pushing the boundaries of what people were used to hearing. According to a statement on their website, the message of Black Violin’s music is to “encourage and empower people of all ages, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds to find what connects us, rather than shine a light on what divides us.”
Black Violin performed two sold out shows at Berklee’s Red Room at Café 939 on Saturday, April 22nd. They are currently on their “Unity” tour where the duo is joined by a drummer and DJ SPS. I could clearly see Black Violin’s message at work by taking a look at the audience. The diversity in age and ethnicity was evident and everyone was excited about what was to come. The show started with DJ SPS playing an “Are You Ready” sample and the drummer hyping up the crowd before Kev Marcus and Wil B made their way to the stage. Following their intro, Kev Marcus and Will B. immediately got into trading fast runs over a hip-hop beat.
Throughout the concert, Black Violin played some of their original songs off of their Stereotypes and Classically Trained albums. They also played uniquely arranged covers of songs, such as “Uptown Funk,” “I Took A Pill in Ibiza,” “One Dance,” and “Black Beatles.” A cool moment in the show was when all the musicians left the stage and gave DJ SPS a chance to show off his scratching and mixing skills over a recording of Antonio Vivaldi’s Spring and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
The show even had humor, illustrated when Wil B. began serenading his viola over a mashup of Ed. Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” On this mashup and a few other songs, Wil B. demonstrated his solid vocal skills and perfect enunciation. When performing their song “Addiction,” Wil B. surprised the audience by trading out his viola and playing the keyboard while singing. Another cool part of the performance involved an open improv between all four band members. This part of the show allowed the audience to see each individual band member’s musicianship and creativity.
I’m so glad that Black Violin has such a clear and necessary purpose behind their music. They are great role models who want to make a difference in the world. Kev Marcus and Wil B. took a moment in the show to address the children in the room. They told them that they shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box, follow their dreams, make their voices heard, and always break stereotypes. They encouraged the kids to take up an instrument and spoke about how playing an instrument has enriched their lives and given them amazing opportunities. I think now, more than ever, musicians should take inspiration from the positive message and direction artists like Black Violin are encouraging.
HAVE YOU HEARD OF BLACK VIOLIN? IF NOT CHECK OUT THEIR YOUTUBE CHANNEL!