It’s not just about the bow
Two B.C. stringsmiths are about to take everything you previously thought about the violin and turn it on its head.
Michael Fraser and Kytami don’t just put a bow to four strings, they have attuned their instruments to every kind of music from hip hop to Celtic to gypsy jazz and even dubstep.
Anyone expecting Mendelssohn’s violin concerto may want to think again. Getting these two together is more like Bowfire mixed with a Shambhala rave, as audiences will hear and see when the two cutting-edge violinists bring their Beats, Strings and Life tour to the intimate surrounds of The Hub in Vernon Sunday.
Both artists have similar beginnings, studying classical music at the Vancouver Academy of Music, but then their paths soon diverged outwards to other musical styles.
Kytami (born Kyla Uyede, now LeBlanc) has gone from performing classical and Celtic fiddle, which she perfected after moving to Whistler and playing in bands at an Irish pub, to churning them with heavy bass elements of electronic music and hip hop.
“I didn’t even know it could be done, then I saw a band called Breakestra out of L.A. and they had a cello player with a live hip hop/funk band. That was a big influence,” she said.
Kytami melded those influences when she helped found and wrote songs for Celtic-meets-Bhangra-meets electonica band Delhi 2 Dublin, whom she performed and toured the world with from 2006 to 2010.
She has also appeared on albums released by Swollen Members, Sweatshop Union, The Rebel Spell, and has collaborated with bands such as Third Eye Tribe, Goatsblood and legendary dub producer The Mad Professor.
More recently she has released her second full-length self-titled album, and has been working with DJs and well as turntablist/producers such as The PhonoGraff, whom she performed with in Vernon earlier this year at a dance put on by the Komasket Music Festival.
“I like to see people express themselves in a different way. Really, who wants to sit in an orchestra and play music that’s been played so many times before? It’s way more fun to be creative and blend it with different music and write music,” she said.
Fraser, in turn, has combined his talents playing violin with popular Vancouver flamenco fusion ensemble Tambura Rasa (also a Komasket regular) as well as gypsy jazz with spinning vinyl as a DJ.
Heavily influenced by jazz violinist Stuff Smith and gypsy violinist Stephane Grappelli, Fraser has travelled to European festivals who deeply appreciate the music of gypsy legend Django Reinhardt.
“It took a lot of practise. Like most kids who go through the classical methods, I didn’t enjoy practising when I was younger as much as I do now,” he said. “I think there was a point when I was 11 or 12 and discovered my favourite jazz violinist, Stuff Smith. I listened to his CDs all night long. This was when I thought, I wanna play like that.”
Besides violins, bow strings and resin, Fraser’s music room is also laid out with turntables, keyboards and computer equipment, which he uses to produce gangsta rap and hip-hop beats. He is equally comfortable with production styles used in electro, techno and disco house.
As a solo performer, he has appeared at Salmo’s Shambhala Music Festival and has opened for Talib Kweli, DJ Fashen, Bit Funk, Jeremy Sole and others.
His work with Tambura Rasa, who he has now parted ways with, earned him and the band two nominations in the best world album category at the Western Canadian Music Awards. Fraser has also made cameo appearances on recordings with indie bands such as Hot Hot Heat, Belle Game and Swingamajig.
Doors to Sunday’s Beats, Strings and Life Tour at The Hub Arts Collective (2906 30th Ave.) open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 available at the Bean Scene.