Black Violin

. October 22, 2019.
(L-R) Wilner Baptiste and Kevin Sylvester, the classically-trained musicians whose YouTube video for “A Flat” has reached more than 10 million views, will perform at The Valentine Theatre on Wednesday, November 6. Photo Credit: Mark Clennon.
(L-R) Wilner Baptiste and Kevin Sylvester, the classically-trained musicians whose YouTube video for “A Flat” has reached more than 10 million views, will perform at The Valentine Theatre on Wednesday, November 6. Photo Credit: Mark Clennon.

Breaking stereotypes, blending hip-hop and classical

First one soft note, then a second. Quietly, a third sonority slips in with gentle dissonance and the piece begins to build. Bask in a gorgeous, lilting violin melody where tune and harmony join together, enveloping you in a comforting embrace of sound and motion. Carried away in a current of neo-classical beauty, when suddenly, the beat drops.

Classical meets hip-hop

Black Violin is the “classical-meets-hip-hop” violin/viola duo. Violinist Kev Marcus and violist/singer Wil B first met in orchestra class in high school. “We’re just like anyone else who played an instrument in high school,” says Marcus. But, they continued their craft under the expert tutelage of their teacher at Dillard, eventually pursuing degrees in performance. They kept in touch and eventually shared an apartment after attending separate colleges. It became clear that traditional careers in classical music— “are we going to wear tuxedos and sit in an orchestra all our lives?”— weren’t what either wanted from life.

Photo Credit: Mark Clennon.

Photo Credit: Mark Clennon.

Marcus describes it, “we wanted to become hip hop producers, but it wasn’t until we started playing beats for people that we realized we could do this.” Combining their twin muses into something that could “blow people away,” they were faced with a quandary: how to balance classical music with pop? “How do we speak to each side without diluting either?” By making the music, as Marcus puts it, “organically classical and organically hip-hop.”

The unapologetic mash-up of classical and hip-hop styles is borne out in their new release, Take the Stairs. By shattering stereotypes — Marcus is quick to point out the inherent rarity of “two pretty large black men” playing string instruments— and flouting expectations, Marcus and Wil B make music that marries the beauty and virtuosity of classical string music with the structure and immediacy of hip-hop. “We’re able to use our influences and what makes us different to push the art form forward.”

Black Violin plays the Valentine

See Black Violin’s music and story in concert at Toledo’s Valentine Theatre on Wednesday, November 6. On tour, they enlist DJ SPS, drummer Nat Stokes, and a “cool light show” to put on a performance that Marcus describes as “something that you’ve never seen before. It’s a super friendly, fun environment.”

The four-piece takes the audience on an extended journey of fully improvised musical exploration, allowing the group to flex their creative muscles, giving the audience an artistic experience they can’t get anywhere else. “Because we break stereotypes, you see people doing something they’re not supposed to, that’s when you can push things forward and make change.”

$39-$59 | 7:30pm | Wednesday, November 6
The Valentine Theatre, 410 Adams St.
419-242-2787 | valentinetheatre.com