Old Spirits, New Sounds: Black Violin Returns to Austin

“It all depends on the vibe.”

Wil B, half of the Black Violin duo, talked to soulciti about how performances take on a life of their own during the freestyle set they offer at every show. Kev has more of a rap style, with a faster flow, while Wil B gravitates to more of an R&B feel. “We just feel each other out and switch up who lays the rhythm depending on what makes sense in the moment.”

“Kev was at FIU [Florida International University] when a professor gave him a copy of Stuff Smith’s last album, Black Violin. We were both blown away. The soul in it was impactful.” When they decided to form a professional group, they decided on the name to pay homage to the inspiration Smith provided. Kevin Sylvester and Wilbur Baptiste officially became Black Violin.

We lived hip hop, but we studied classical music.

Black Violin’s upcoming Austin performance at the Long Center will be the fruit of many years of the two Florida men practicing and collaborating on their own unique blend of classical and hip hop music. The two met at the Dillard High School of Performance Arts, where a music teacher convinced them that their proficiency in both musical styles could really pay off.

“We lived hip hop, but we studied classical music.” Fortunate enough to learn in an fine arts environment that embraced thinking outside of the box, Wil B explained that he always saw both forms as simply “music” that could be used in as many ways as the mind could imagine. They never really considered that they were breaking any rules.

He described famous classical composer, Mozart, as the hip hop producer/ songwriter Timbaland of his time. Mozart and Timbaland share the knack for composing songs on a whim providing fresh entertainment to their contemporaries. The passion for creating new and fresh music is something the duo appreciates in old style hip hop, what some may call “old money” classical music and their own creations.

have focused practice every day

For young people aspiring to grow in any art form, the best advice they had to offer was “have focused practice every day.” The amount of time is less important than the level of focus and committing to practicing daily.

Wil B says he never tires of practicing or performing because he sees his work as his purpose and the way in which he serves God. People have told the duo that their performances have changed the way they hear music, see stringed instruments and what they believe about black men. They leave concerts better people.

Come experience the transformational event that is Black Violin at The Long Center on on Wednesday, March 7. Tickets are on sale now.





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