SAU Buzz

Concert Review: Hip Hop Meets the Music of India

by Charles Hanley
Posted on Oct 04, 2018

“Hip Hop Meets the Music of India” was the first Casual Classics Concert this school year.


The performance was done by the Grammy nominated Progressive Hip-Hop

Artist/multi-instrumentalist, Christylez Bacon, and Indian violinist, Nistha Raj. The concert took place at Madisen Hall in the Galvin Fine Arts Center.


The music was a mix of Hindustani music with modern sounds to entertain the audience. It featured Raj playing the violin while Bacon was beatboxing with various sounds being played in the background.


“I’m using an app on my IPad that is able to play the thong horra, an Indian instrument that has a large round board and a long neck. It has 4 strings on it. You pluck it in a circular motion and it creates that drone sound,” Raj explained. “There’s really no rhythm when it comes to plucking it. The whole purpose is to create that drone sound. It is a very important element of sound in Indian classical music.”


The concert also had the audience engaging with the artists as Bacon was given words to use for his freestyle performance.


“There’s an element of Hip-Hop called freestyling,” Bacon said. “What we do is we step into music on real time and create all these words on the spot and they rhyme. It shouldn’t be just random words rhyming though. The rhymes should have a purpose that’s used to communicate a message to the audience.”


This is the first time a Casual Classics concert featured music from India, and the first time a beatboxer was featured.


“Normally the concerts spotlight music that’s more in the European/North American art music. The artists here are part of a residency with the Quad City Arts, which is a place that brings performing artists to K-12 schools. We were lucky to have them perform here at St. Ambrose,” said William Campbell, Professor of Music and Chair of the music department at St. Ambrose University.


Not only is Bacon able to rap and beatbox, but he also has been known for multi-tasking between various instruments such as the West African djembe drum, and the acoustic guitar, all while continuing the oral tradition of storytelling through his lyrics.


Raj is all about beatboxing, strains of jazz, and rock being heard in Indian classical music.


Raj has a lot of experience with music as she began training in music at the age of 9, which is when she learned how to play the western classic violin. She was born and raised in the U.S., but because of her Indian heritage, she was exposed to the classical music of India from her childhood. Raj has pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Music with honors from the University of Houston.