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Kevin Sylvester, left, and Wilner Baptiste, right, of Black Violin perform Wednesday night at the Templeton-Blackburn Memorial Auditorium.

Black Violin brought a hip-hop edge to classical strings music

A strings duo mixed classical instrumental tunes with popular hip-hop songs from Drake and Bruno Mars in the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium on Wednesday night.

Black Violin is made up of the two frontmen, Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste, a drummer and a DJ. The Wednesday night show was the 103rd show of the band’s tour and their 2nd that day.

The combination of classical music and contemporary hip-hop is not common in many musical acts, and Black Violin wanted to make sure the audience knew this wasn’t a normal orchestra show from the start.

“We know some of you thought you were coming to a quiet show,” Baptiste said. “This is a party.”

The duo encouraged the audience to clap, sing and dance along to all of their songs, and the audience made sure to deliver. They played classical tunes and popular songs such as “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mike Posner. 

Connie Chancellor, a sophomore studying environmental health, said she had never heard of Black Violin before the show but decided to go after her mom bought her and her sister tickets to attend. She expected them to play mostly classical music before the show started but left feeling like she saw an act unlike anything she’s seen before.

“My favorite part was when they mixed the classical with some of the upbeat hip-hop stuff,” Chancellor said. “There were two different genres (that) kind of met together, and (Black Violin) made it their own.”

The duo met in high school orchestra about 20 years ago, and they decided to combine their love of hip-hop and stringed instruments to create Black Violin. The two have worked with acts such as Alicia Keys and Kanye West, and they have even played for President Barack Obama.

Marcus decided to take a moment during the show to appreciate his one true love, Tiffany — his violin.

“Isn’t she beautiful?... She pays all my bills,” Marcus said.

Marcus plucked his violin and sang a mash-up of the songs “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran and “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.

Jason Pina, the vice president of student affairs, said he had heard of Black Violin before attending the show but refused to watch videos of the group before the performance so he could experience it live. The duo played popular Drake songs “Controlla” and “One Dance,” which audience members such as Pina greatly enjoyed.

“It was unbelievable. It was definitely better than I thought it was going to be,” Pina said. “I love Drake (and) … being able to sing along. People really got into it, which was awesome to see, too.”

Black Violin takes time out of each show to improvise a song that is different for each audience. Each band member had elaborate solos that were accompanied by a dramatic light show.

During the show, the duo took some time to encourage the kids in the audience to “break stereotypes” and find a different way to do what they love like the members of Black Violin did.

They played songs off of their album Stereotypes, such as “Addiction” in which Marcus showed he could not only sing and play the violin but also play piano as well.

After the group played its last song, audience members waved their phone flashlights and cheered for the band to play an encore. Black Violin obliged and played several songs including “Beat It” by Michael Jackson and a medley of classical songs.

“I like the fact that when he talked about the violin, he talked about people being passionate about what (people) want to do and to do it different and follow (their) passions,” Pina said. “I think that’s something we try to tell our students all the time. Whatever convention is, screw it. Do it new. Do it better.”

@_alexdarus

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