Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Extravaganza of the Arts

On September 18, I attended the Fall Extravaganza of the Arts Benefit Show at the Student Activities Building on the University of Virginia campus. The program featured performances by the following student performing arts groups: REMIX, Academical Village People, Oluponya Records, Step It Up, Mahogany Dance Troupe, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Black Expression and Thought Society (BEATS) and Amuse-Bouche. REMIX, Academical Village, and Oluponya Records are three of the many singing groups at UVa, the first two being acapella groups and the last being the only student record label on grounds.

Academical Village was the first acapella group to perform. This group was all male. The majority were Caucasian, so it surprised me when they performed hip hop selections. Their energy was very high. While performing each song, every member of the group connected with the audience by swaying from side to side and initiating periods of clapping during fast selections. At times it was hard to hear the soloist because this group chose not to use a microphone; however the background harmony was clear. They sang their selections with straight tones, or without the use of vibrato. Their voices were surprisingly light for males, but the resulting sound was amazing and bone-chilling.

The second acappella group to perform was REMIX. REMIX is known as the only “hip-hopcapella” group on grounds. This group is racially and gender-wise more diverse than the Academical Village. REMIX performed two songs. The first selection was “Love In This Club” by Usher. Traditionally a man sings the solo, but in this case a female took over. The soloist used the microphone to help project her voice. Her tone was strong with the use of a lot of vibrato. The background harmony was just as strong as the soloist, but without the use of microphones. During the verses the background remained steady and quiet. As the soloist transitioned from the verse to the chorus, the background harmony swelled. The second selection was the traditional REMIX medley which consists of R&B songs from the 1990s. Once again, a female soloist performed a song that was originally performed by a male.

The last musical group to perform that night was the Oluponya Record Label. There were three separate performances from students from the record label; however the selection I particularly enjoyed was a diverse group of young men (Asian and African-American) who fused hip hop with rock. Two of the young men rapped lyrics about being the best and “alpha dogs” of their group (a theme often seen in rap lyrics) while the other young men accompanied them with the keyboard and the electric guitar. It reminded me of the current trend in music fusion that has been developing over the past few years. An example of a similar fusion of hip hop and rock are Jay-Z and Linkin Park’s song “Encore/Numb”. The group of four young men kept the audiences attention by waving their hands in the air and “working” the stage. They made sure their lyrics were clear and appropriate for the audience.

All three musical groups were diverse and different in their performances. Each group tended to break the status quo and perform in their own manner. Some small cases of gender bending, or gender equality in Remix, music fusion in Oluponya, and Academical village went against the stereotypical “white boy band” approach and performed Hip Hop selections. Overall, the entire show was an excellent way of learning about the diverse performing arts groups on the university grounds. Did I mention it was free?

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