By Jeneanne Collins
I recently attended a Black Violin concert on their “Impossible Tour”. On stage, the duo is Kevin Sylvester and Wilner Baptiste better known as Kev Marcus (violin) and Will B. (viola). They both are classically trained instrumentalists that play combinations of music including classical, hip-hop, contemporary jazz, R&B and rock. They have been playing since high school and were heavily influenced by the foundations of classical music, Wu Tang and Mary J. Blige to name a few.
The duo that makes Black Violin jumpstarted the crowd with music that sounded like a mixture of Mozart, Monica, and Mos Def. They play with the richness of the strings section in a traditional orchestra, the intensity of a rock band, and the soul of rhythm and blues. The concert sound reminds me of early Earth, Wind and Fire meets Incognito meets Eric B and Rakim. They bring a high level of love, character and motivation to the stage.
The duo’s musical diversity and a vibrant stage presence keeps the audience alive. They are interactive with the audience throughout the night and encourage the crowd to follow Black Violin on Instagram, to tag them in photos, take selfies and post longer video footage from the concert to their YouTube channels.
To start off their concert, Black Violin dedicated their performance to the late Congressman Elijah Cummings and thanked him openly for his contributions to Black people and society. “We Look different than your typical violinist” says the duo to the screaming audience.
They are two Black men who play the violin all over the world to a variety of audiences. “We like breaking barriers and stereotypes” Black Violin states . They have performed for the US troops in Iraq, for President Obama, and worked with some of the best in the music industry including Salam Remi, Melanie Fiona, Black Thought, and Kanye West. “We want to continue to prove the world wrong” the duo adds during the concert.
They continue to switch between genres and between being vocalists, keyboardist, and audience hype men during their performance
Their rendition of Bel Biv Devo’s “Poison” featured a live and interactive remix from their DJ and drummer. In addition, they shared songs from their current album “Take the Stairs” including “Rise” which sounds like a track for a movie or a new formulation of a historic negro spiritual. Their song “One Step” screams of a gospel message for the future. The instrumental “Spaz” was an awesome classical hip-hip instrumental that added space for head bopping, rapping, and waving your hands from side to side.
Black Violin brought a group of young musicians on at the end of their final set. “Here is the future” they stated. The youth accompanied them on one of their new singles “Impossible is Possible”. The duo was truly inspiring to the audience of various ethnicities and ages. They used the stage as a platform to share not only music but to encourage parents and their children to take the classical strings serious and “see where it can take you”.
“ Through the violin we received college degrees” states the duo . “We don’t forget where we came from” they add speaking of the classical and hip -hop roots. They encourage what is possible: to climb higher and “Take the Stairs” from the Black Violin and beyond.