Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Juan Chavez: shredding on the violin?

There are three things a woman needs to do in order to succeed as a trophy wife on the East Coast (and I mean actual East Coast, none of that Real Housewives of Manhattan crap):

1. play tennis well
2. speak a foreign language (French or Italian only), and
3. play either the violin or the piano proficiently.

Of these, the third is the most important, because if you play the violin well at 25 (standard trophy wife age), it's only because you've had years of practice; if you've been able to practice for so many years, it's only because your parents were rich enough to either hire a nanny to deal with the first few years of screeching, or else build a practice room far off in some other wing of your mansion.

But not all violinists are as snooty as this gross generalization would lead you to believe. Strings come more or less standard with folk bands--which, even at their tamest, are considerably more fun outfits than your little sister's 6th grade recital. (Shameless plug: I have some friends in a folk band called the Bridgebuilders, and they're awesome!) There's an Israeli musician named Miri Ben-Ari who did strings for most of Kanye West's first album, The College Dropout; indie favorite Andrew Bird played violin for the Squirrel Nut Zippers before he went solo. Contemporary Latin music, however, remains all but untouched by strings--the notable exception being tango, a genre whose dramatic air pretty much necessitates a violin or two.

Enter Juan Chávez, a recent Berklee grad who had spent most of his life playing improvisational violin until a high-school teacher suggested he play for his school's salsa ensemble. Juan was recently at WGBH to teach the show OneGuest (in the spirit of full disclosure: I work for those dudes) about the differences between salsa and cha-cha-cha and to plug his new band, Arco Kemao. Here, he shreds:

So do string sections in salsa do their part to class the genre up, or does the violin get more cred?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

0.5: Be hot.

Also, don't forget to add horseback riding and skiing to tennis.