Friday, April 29, 2005

Daniel Bernard Roumain as Rock Star

April 17: Daniel Bernard Roumain @ Montclair State University

Keith and I went to see (and hear) Daniel Bernard Roumain at Montclair State University. The performance was called Soulphonic Soundscape and he played with his band The Mission. The show was billed in this way:
A night of hip-hop, funk, soul and classical featuring composer/musician Daniel Bernard Roumain, his 10 piece ensemble, DBR's Mission, choreography by MSU's Donna Scro Gentile, and students from the MSU community in a collaborative concert of original instrumental music and songs written by DBR. Because he is known as a classical composer, I expected less of a rock show. I'm really interested in the different directions Roumain is taking his work these days.

A year or so ago K and I went to a Black History Month performance of chamber work by black composers. Little did we know that the only black people in the room would be in the audience. (I swear I’m not going to rename this blog “The Only Black in The Room”. I could, though, couldn’t I?) The ensemble played work by William Grant Still as well as one of DBR's "Hip Hop Etudes" – which requires the ensemble to improvise. While the result sounded more like funk than jazz, I was curious to hear from Roumain what made it hip-hop. Hearing these etudes and other works with a rock band (the band had a pianist, keyboardist, drummer on kit, a DJ, a vocalist, and five violinists – Roumain was the pianist, vocalist, and lead violinist) made it sound even more like rock.

Roumain’s show ended at 5pm. We then went to Princeton to hear “The Ancient Concert” (I’ll blog on this later.) While we were there we learned that DBR would be back the next Friday and we were scheduled to come back that Friday, so we went to hear him again. This time he played by himself. In the workshop before the concert he played “Hip Hop Etude in D minor” Because it sounded like a ballad, a woman in the audience asked him, hesitantly, and with many references to her kids who listened to hip-hop, what made it hip-hop. His answer was that “hip-hop can be many things”. He went on to think about focusing on the pulse rather than the beat. There was more, but that’s what I’m focusing on right now.


Blogger Bernard Bradshaw said...

I know your post wasn't mean to inspire this comment, but that rockstar is H to the O to the T T T. Damn! And we share the same name!

Love your blog Mendi O.

Bernard Bradshaw
Sex and the Second

11:46 AM, May 04, 2005  
Blogger John K said...

Thanks for this writeup, Mendi. I have been wondering about Roumain's work for a while, so it was cool to read your appraisal. I'm going to get one of his CDs and also scout for an upcoming appearance.

10:01 PM, May 04, 2005  
Blogger Mendi O. said...

hi bernard: i'm glad you like the blog . . . and how do you know my post wasn't meant to inspire that kind of comment?

hi john: i think there's so much more to say about roumain. i'm still processing what i've seen and heard over the last month or so. i'm sure 3 years from now i'll be able to say exactly what i meant.

12:45 AM, May 09, 2005  

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