Black Violin delivers modern, classical sounds despite the barriers of COVID-19

Black Violin performs via livestream on Friday night


Courtesy of Black Violin Facebook Page

By Cameron Gibney, Collegian Staff

Black Violin, a band that aims to combine classical and hip-hop music to create a new sound and break cultural barriers, performed a live remote concert and facilitated a discussion following their performance Friday night.

Hailing from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the group is composed of classical musicians Kev Marcus on violin and Wil B. on viola. The duo has gained recognition since their formation in 2004 for their classic-meets-modern sound, channeling a diverse range of influences that spans from Timbaland to Tchaikovsky.

The group has collaborated with a slew of big-name musicians, a list that includes the likes of Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Aerosmith and the late Tom Petty.

The band has put out several long-play releases and is expecting a Christmas album this holiday season, according to an announcement via the group’s Twitter on Sept. 22. On Friday night, they took to a virtual performance sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Fine Arts Center, to show the Amherst community what Black Violin is all about. After a performance roughly 40 minutes long, the group stuck around for a formal Q&A with audience members.

The virtual event is part of the new FAC series called “Bodies at Risk”, described as “creative conversations between BIPOC performing artists, educators, activists and other experts working to shift American society’s understanding of the racialized body and social justice,” according to a press release by UMass News and Media Relations.

“We’re Black Violin [from] Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,” said Marcus in the opening moments of the set. “Hope you guys are doing good… how y’all feeling? We’re gonna do a little something together, hope you guys enjoy it.” The group’s set started out with a bang, bursting into a high-energy opening number that effectively showcased the duo’s chemistry and technical ability.

“It’s crazy with this COVID thing, we don’t get to play as much as we usually do. I hope you guys are enjoying [the set] as much as we are. We’re just gonna vibe a little bit,” said Marcus. The group then transitioned into an improvisation piece led primarily by Wil B., with additional help from Marcus.

“Give it up for Wil B., ladies and gentlemen,” Marcus hollered as Baptiste stepped forward into a stimulating solo.

Among the tracks performed were the group’s original song “A-Flat”, a cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and “Stereotypes”, an original piece from the group’s 2015 record.

“I think we got time for a couple more…  well maybe one more… no, two more. Let’s do it,” said Marcus.

“Once again, thank you guys for tuning in, we are Black Violin,” Baptiste said to the virtual crowd, who tuned into the event on Facebook and YouTube.

“I’m really thrilled I get to come back [to UMass] in this way with Black Violin… I hope you are also moved and inspired,” said Stephanie Shonekan, a former UMass faculty member, who is an African-American studies scholar and a music professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Missouri.

Shonekan led the post-performance discussion with Black Violin. Topics ranging from social issues to musical influences were discussed, with many attendees asking their own questions via a live chat that ran simultaneously alongside the discussion.

Cameron Gibney can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @HayesGibney.