OSWEGO — The popular classical-meets-hip-hop duo Black Violin will return to the college’s Artswego Performing Arts Series via a live virtual concert at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12.
Kev Marcus and Wil Baptiste have been merging string arrangements with modern beats and vocals through countless energetic, eye-opening performances. Their Oswego appearance follows their critically acclaimed 2019 release “Take the Stairs,” and is in advance of the Nov. 20 release of the holiday-themed “Give Thanks.”
Billboard magazine was among those applauding their most recent record, noting: “‘Take the Stairs’ continues to celebrate Black Violin’s genre-less approach to music, from the futuristic anthem ‘One Step’ to the elaborate ‘Serenade.’”
Black Violin has showcased their skills on previous albums including “Stereotypes” and “Classically Trained.”
The duo met in orchestra class at Dillard High School in Ft. Lauderdale, becoming classically trained on the violin and viola through their high school and college careers. Post-college, they reconvened to produce beats for South Florida rappers, and began building an audience in local clubs. They later went on to win “Showtime at the Apollo” in 2005, and eventually sold out headline performances at venues across the country, including a sold-out two-night headline run at The Kennedy Center in 2018.
Their unique brand of merging the genre they were listening to (hip hop) with the world they were studying (classical) was celebrated with collaborations with Alicia Keys, Wu Tang Clan, 2 Chainz and others.
NPR took note and declared “their music will keep classical music alive for the next generation.” UPROXX featured them in “Black Violin, Breaking Your Musical Stereotypes,” a mini-documentary as part of their “Uncharted” series.
In making music, they aim to challenge stereotypes and preconceived notions of what a classical musician looks and sounds like. “The stereotypes are always there, embedded so deep in our culture,” Baptiste said. “Just by nature of our existence we challenge those ideas. It’s a unique thing that brings people together who aren’t usually in the same room, and in the current climate, it’s good to bring people together.”
The group launched the Black Violin Foundation, dedicated to empowering youth by providing access to quality music programs in their community. The foundation believes that music and access to music programs should not be determined by race, gender or socio-economic status. The Black Violin Foundation’s inaugural program will provide scholarships of up to $1,000 to youth who would like to continue their musical education through a program of their liking that fosters musical creativity and innovation.
Black Violin proved very audience-friendly in their 2016 show at the college, connecting with high energy and virtuosity, encouraging attendees to get up and dance, as well as asking audience members — instead of discouraging them — to take photos and videos and post on social media to share their music and message.
For more information on Black Violin, visit their website blackviolin.net.
Tickets are free for SUNY Oswego students; $8 for SUNY Oswego faculty, staff and alumni (per household stream); $10 for the general public. Visit tickets.oswego.edu for reservations.