I.it may seem hard to believe but it took some time for the Black Violin to realize its representational power.
The Grammy-nominated duo, which includes string virtuosos Kev Marcus and Will Batista, has combined classical technique and hip-hop since 2004, but in the beginning the guys were more focused on the drive than they were. outstanding. in his musical sphere. Gained fame by covering hip-hop tunes, and conquering famous crowds Show time in Apollo, they were just trying to make good money and get gigs as touring or studio violinists such as Alicia Keys or Kanye West. But as their attention grew, the changes in the people who came to their concerts turned away their views.
“As the years went by, we started to see people bringing their children to us,” Marcus says. “[We’re] seeing that this part of our demographics, which we are mostly proud of, has grown significantly over the last few years. [It got us] think about the power of what we do; representation ”.
“I mean, we knew it, of course,” he adds. “The thing is, we’re black guys playing the violin and nobody sees it. Nobody approaches it the way we do. But suddenly [you] start having children and you start to see the responsibility we have and try to use it as a mechanism of goodness to make sure that every time someone comes and watches the show, they understand that message. You can do whatever you want. And if someone tells you that you can’t do it, you probably have to run to meet it because that’s what you have to do. ”
The sound mix of hip-hop string arrangements has always stood out in the band, but in 2019 it took a new step by releasing Climb the stairs, which brought the duo a Grammy nomination for Best Modern Instrumental Album (despite a fair amount of vocals). Black Violin captures the elegant grandeur of their eponymous instruments, never ceasing to sound too traditional in a stubborn, sleepy way.
Part of this comes only from a wild array of experiences that Marcus and Batiste have been able to adopt over the years. How many artists who played at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra also performed at the Wu-Tang Clan and their outlook was influenced by Linkin Park?
Marcus believes Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park has shown Black Violin how to behave as a professional musician. Shinoda led the duo to participate in the Fort Minor side project and eventually took them on a world tour to shape prospects with Linkin Park. Referring to the global trip as the highlight of his career, Marcus says that the nu-metal band conducted its business so punctually, professionally and friendly that it basically eliminated any possibility that he and Batiste would weaken or become selfish.
Black Violin is now on a massive tour, folding boat dates canceled in 2020 due to COVID. The band reinforced their live performance by expanding the live band to five people (two violins, a DJ, a drummer and a new keyboardist who adds “bass keys” to get that low hum) and put together an impressive synchronized light show.
“The show is like the arena we put in the theater. It feels very big,” says Marcus.
In addition to their own music, in recent years the guys have also dared to create songs for television and film, which allows them to stretch various creative muscles. After they finish the tour dates, which will last until May, it is planned to start work on a new album in the fall.
But as the years of Black Violin have shown, the goal should be more than just music. That’s why the Black Violin Foundation was created three years ago to give back even more. There are three major affiliates of the nonprofit: James Miles Music Innovation Grants, the Dreamer Instrumental Access Program, and Grants for the Benefit and Inclusion of Dreamer Diversity Equity. Named after a high school music teacher who brought up musical talents in duos (delivering them to summer camps, organizing them with private teachers, etc.), Marcus says the grants are designed to “connect the dots” to students could continue their musical education. This includes everything from paying for summer camps to getting a tool for a child in need. The Dreamer Instrumental program is collaborating with a Baroque violin store in Cincinnati to obtain POC stringed instruments for youth.
Grants from the Black Violin Foundation Dreamer Diversity Equity and Inclusion try to attack the root of the problem even more directly by collaborating with schools directly to try to create inclusive orchestra programs. Sometimes it’s as simple as identifying a school and simply donating the instruments of an entire orchestra to begin the program.
“In the string world, only 2 percent [professional musicians] identified as Black or [People of Color]”- says Marcus.” It’s a problem. So we’re just trying to work systematically and trying to figure out how to create more opportunities for young Black and Brown students to find their way to classical music. ”
One way or another, Black Violin will try to change the music world for the better, whether it’s through their energetic live shows or invisible notes that are reflected in the long run. ♦
Black Violin • Thu, March 3 at 7:30 pm • $ 35- $ 58 • Martin Waldson Theater at The Fox • 1001 W. Sprague Ave. • foxtheaterspokane.org • 509-624-1200