Friday, March 23, 2012

Kevin Olusola Young Musician Composer: Fusing Hip Hop with Classical Music

My students often ask, where do you think African American music will go next? Lately, I usually smirk and respond, "What genre?"  Then, after a few moments of reconsidering, I refer them to works by amazing young musicians who cross genre borders as they consciously fuse contemporary sounds.

In our twenty first century, we have a quantum array of natural ambient and artificially constructed sounds. Today's composer's combinatorial aural pallet choices are exciting from the blend of programmed electronic sound with written acoustic scores to improvised vocalise with eclectic instrumental orchestration. Add to this our newest media technology/accessibility and our young musicians can free-jam world wide, or collaborate to notate a terrestrial symphony with the touch of an App. Consider a few of the elders whose shoulders this African American Millennial generation (Af-AM Mills) stands on.

Today's young composer/musicians can use traditional instruments in unusual combinations like T.J. Anderson's 1969 composition:Variations on a Theme by M. B. Tolson   .   They can blend Jazz and Classical piano ideas like Donal Fox's post modern Hypothesis I: A Treatis for Piano Solo(1981), or Hip Hop with classical symphonic form much like Gregory Walker's Dream N. the Hood for chamber orchestra and Rapper(1995)2. They have more freedom to invent and play new instruments with atypical timbres, or use traditional instruments in unusual combinations with exotic scalar melodies. I have been listening to a lot of Afro-Classical music lately. A gifted young man that I am really enjoying who expresses compositional creativity akin to Esperanza Spaulding's exploratory works is Kevin Olusola.

He is featured on several sites, for example: , and is perhaps best known to the general public as a member of last fall's a cappella group Pentatonix that won the "Sing-off" .I encountered Olusola while providing research sites for our chapter on Afro-Classical music in a course I'm presently teaching. It is the site for one of my favorite composers, Quincy Jones.

 As a sample of his work, enjoy the YouTube Beatbox/Cello video that is making him a global phenomenon.

Olusola is an articulate young artist who continues to develop a very musical distinctive "voice" whether vocalizing or playing an instrument. He has accomplished much and is contributing to the tapestry of our American and global sonic terrain. We look forward to hearing from this inspirational young talent in the future.
     1. Josephine R. B. Wright,     "Art/Classical Music" Chronological Overview," in  African American Music: An Introduction, eds. Mellonee V. Burnim and Portia Maultsyby (New York: Routledge, 2006),  227-229.
2. Ibid.

Thinking about new musical horizons,
Delores Fisher

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