Connecting Crossroads in NC: Daniel Bernard Roumain with Laurelyn Dossett
Sat. 9/15 • 7 p.m.
UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium
601 S. College Rd.
$5-22 • www.dbrmusic.com
Violinist, composer, music scholar, innovator, philanthropist … However one tries to define Daniel Bernard Roumain, better known as DBR, it simply isn’t enough. The Haitian-American musician’s singular compositions blend his traditional training with his spiraling, untamed musical imagination and compelling energy. For years Roumain’s music has helped broaden and redefine classical music, giving it a fresh appeal to young audiences.
The contemporary composer’s eclecticism has made him one of the most sought-after collaborators in the past decade. His pairings span from performing with Philip Glass to Lady Gaga on “American Idol,” to backing icons Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Charles. His constant evolution as an artist and determination to push the boundaries of classical music has led The New York Times to call him “about as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets” while Esquire recently deemed him the “new face of classical music.”
Roumain returns to Kenan Auditorium at UNCW on September 15th to perform “Connecting Crossroads in North Carolina.” The concert is the result of a two-year collaboration between Roumain and North Carolina-native singer/songwriter Laurelyn Dossett, who traveled throughout our state gathering inspiration for their newly released album, “The Collide.” The performance will feature local musicians from UNCW and the Wilmington community playing original compositions inspired by Roumain and Dossett’s travels around NC.
encore spoke with Roumain about his new collaborative album, exploring NC, and his work with aspiring musicians.
encore (e): How did the collaboration with Laurelyn Dossett come about?
Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR): Well, I’ve been performing in North Carolina for the last 10 years, and I wanted to collaborate with someone outside of my comfort and familiarity. I also wanted someone who I felt represented NC really well and was well-known throughout the state and could help me understand it. Laurelyn’s name kept on coming up through her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops and her own work as a solo artist and songwriter. I e-mailed her and we began exchanging tracks.
e: The album has an interesting back story, which involves the two of you traveling around the state researching its musical history.
DBR: Right, we toured all over NC—we went to Wilmington, Raleigh, Greensboro and up in the mountains. [During this time], I began to get a snapshot of just how diverse NC is, the personality of each city, and the way its music has evolved over the years. Like a lot of states in the US, NC is very evocative and very dense; each locale had its own history, its own story to tell. It was very easy to create songs in response to that sonic impression.
e: Did the state’s musical roots have any influence on what instrumentation you used on the record?
DBR: In some ways, yeah. We talked about what would make the most sense. In the end, we went with somewhat of a bluegrass band with stand-up bass, banjos, guitars, and brush drums. We also added electronics and, of course, my brand of violin-playing. So, I think the [diversity in] instrumentation does reflect a lot of NC by extension. Like if you’re in Asheville, where we recorded the album, there’s a lot going on there musically—you’ve got folk, traditional music, jazz, electronic music—and that’s just one city. In some ways [the album] is a fleeting glitz of all that’s possible in NC. With the instrumentation, we just tried to give an impression of what you may hear if you’re traveling through the state.
e: Was there an experience that particularly informed your perception of North Carolina music?
DBR: When we were in Boone, we met a gentleman who spent his whole life there and his father spent his whole life there on the same land. They were both instrument-makers. He had so many stories to tell about the banjos his father hand made out of wood, stories about the land, ghost stories, adventure stories. Most important to me was the sense of honoring his father’s legacy, and he had a real sense of place, purpose and respect. I loved that. I related to that in terms of my own family’s heritage in Haiti and their respect for the land. I think when you hear one person’s story it gives you full perspective of your own.
e: When you’re not recording, you seem to be in the midst of a residency. This past spring it was at the University of Missouri Conservatory’s Musical Bridges program in Kansas City. How’d you land that gig?
DBR: They found me and invited me to come. At the time there were some tornadoes happening around the city, which was pretty common for them but not for me. But the time there was amazing. It was pretty incredible to be in the Bible Belt and find so much liberalism, so much art and so much concern for these young people. Once I got there I realized just how wonderful the work they’ve been doing was. It was wonderful to see their commitment to the arts and their relationship to the university. Also, I was invited back for next year.
e: Do you feel it’s your responsibility as a musician to impart how important music is for development to the younger generation?
DBR: I think so. I’m the product of a public school system in South Florida. I was lucky enough to have great teachers who gave up a great part of their lives toward education. I was also lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of volunteers who only wanted the best for me. I remember my mother giving our clothes away to people at the hospital—she worked there as a medical technologist—and that made a big impression on me. So in my own very small way, I’ve always tried to give back to any community because I grew up watching my mother do that.