Hip hop violinist reinvents Top 40s

Basic house tracks provided the beat and rhythm alongside the bright timbre of an electric violin to form a unique dichotomy at an Activities Commission Limelight & Accents-sponsored performance of SVET on Saturday Sept. 28 in Wadsworth Auditorium. SVET is a solo artist who plays the violin and also sings and raps along with house music samples. He was featured on “America's Got Talent,” which left him with the opportunity to capitalize on his rare blend of sounds.

SVET has been playing music since he was 3 years old. Raised on classical music, he was later exposed to hip-hop and house in his adolescence.

His show opened with a medley of audio-filtered radio hits, with the songs' vocal melodies played on the violin. He played along with his brother, known as DJ Icon, who accompanied him in duets and supported SVET with his digital sound.

The first original song in the set was “Fall in Love,” which opened with SVET and DJ Icon beat-boxing to the sample. It then broke into a standard hip-hop section, subject to interruptions of weeping violin leads.

“Fiddler on the Roof” opened with the same vein of violin melody that followed a repeating progression of keys on the sample. The vocals alternated between hip-hop and contemporary pop-style singing.

“String Theory” was arguably the strongest song in his performance, as it featured a broader range of violin techniques. It began with a “pizzicato” - when the strings are plucked instead of using the bow − introduction, which gave way to a rich melodic section with longer notes. That section bled into an impressive succession of rapid sweeps.

Clearly, the greatest strength of the show is the sound SVET creates for himself. It is unique and branded, and it gives him a whole new genre to work with, making him intriguing.

Intriguing, however, is the best his music gets. For all his talent, SVET has a musical comfort zone, and he did not leave it. The songs maintained the same beat, tempo and mood throughout, while some variety therein would give the songs perspective and develop a more universal, thought-provoking sound.

What's more, his performance was alienating. The lengthy hip-hop medleys have very little weight of their own and are dependent on the audience's familiarity with FM radio. To someone unfamiliar, these medleys would be meaningless if not uninteresting.

While it was refreshing to see a musician playing in such an unusual style, SVET's show was overall unsatisfactory. It is possible that by creating pieces in an uncommon style, he is raising the bar for himself.

Perhaps because he is an explorer of music, SVET has a responsibility not only to find a unique sound but also to delve deeply into it. We love art because it can show us many things that we can't see through any other lens. Here, SVET has a very new lens for that purpose.

Given his contiguous comfort zone and the safety net he tied by revamping only the newest, most popular hits, this performance barely showed us anything at all.