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Hartford rapper joins classical music ensemble for live performance celebrating the city

Tang $auce (left to right), Khaiim The Rapoet and Annie Trépanier of Cuatro Puntos Ensemble.
Provided photograph
David Borawski
From left, Tang $auce, Khaiim the Rapoet and Annie Trépanier of Cuatro Puntos Ensemble

People seem to love musical crossovers. Think the Dixie Chicks covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” or the Beatles performing “Till There Was You” from the musical “The Music Man.”

In popular music, it’s not unusual for a rap artist to collaborate with a heavy metal band, or a country music group to release its version of a rock 'n' roll standard (Rascal Flatts’ version of Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway'' comes to mind).

This week in Hartford and Glastonbury, the classical music ensemble Cuatro Puntos stretches the crossover concept with a performance featuring Hartford’s own City Troubadour, Khaiim the Rapoet, also known as “Self Suffice.”

Granted, it’s not often that a rapper joins forces with a classical music ensemble for a live performance. But Khaiim the Rapoet said that when he heard composer David Macbride’s piece “Coming Home,'’ he was inspired.

“Not only because he wrote this for Hartford, and the lakes and the parks and the buildings, but also because he wrote it for collaboration,” Khaiim said. “He wrote it to bring people together. So this is really what we as hip-hop artists love to do, is take different sounds that maybe people didn’t think could have words or rhythms on them.”

The collaboration on “Coming Home” actually dates back to the beginning of the pandemic. Kevin Bishop, the artistic director of Cuatro Puntos, invited Khaiim to add some free verse to the opening of the work for an online performance. For the live performance, Khaiim the Rapoet will interject rhymes throughout several sections of the piece, even including some improvised verses based on suggestions from the audience.

“Coming Home” allows for improvisational sections, a chance for the ensemble and Khaiim to forge new musical ground on the spot. Allan Ballinger, the cellist for Cuantro Puntos, said it’s been happening a lot in rehearsal.

“Khaiim, you know, he’s rapping, but then he got to this rapid-fire cadence, and the violist started playing something very percussive to match that, and I picked up on it, and it’s just like we were reacting to him,” Ballinger said.

“Coming Home: A Hartford Collage” will be performed Thursday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Lutheran Church of St. Mark in Glastonbury. Go to Cuatropuntos.org for more information.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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