Since its emergence in London in the early 00s, grime has gone from an underground offshoot of UK garage and jungle, to a mainstream powerhouse with household names like Lethal Bizzle, Dizzee Rascal and 2018 Brit Award winner Stormzy, as well as its own section on iTunes.
Grime’s gritty, DIY aesthetic might not seem like the right fit for a violinist looking to explore new genres, but Tanya Cracknell — aka The Grime Violinist — is proving that there doesn’t have to be anything stuffy or precious about what’s a traditionally been considered as a classical instrument.
Tanya was kind enough to answer a few of our questions on breaking into grime and being a musician in London.
For the uninitiated, how would you describe grime?
UK rap that represents real life over a dirty beat, often with a lead instrument such as violin — which was always sampled until I arrived!
What was it that drew you to grime as a genre?
The energy and excitement of grime means I can’t sit still listening to it. Going to live grime gigs has to be one of the best experiences there is: feeling free to jump around to the beats and see everyone get gassed over an MC’s bar so the DJ reloads the track. If you haven’t tried it you need to.
As a violinist, how did you get involved in the grime scene?
I’m classically trained and studied violin performance at university, all the time listening to non-classical music outside my training including hip hop, grime, garage and soul. When I started combining my love of violin and grime I enjoyed performing much more and decided that was what I wanted to do full time. Fast forward 2 years and that’s now a reality; I’m honoured to have performed with some of the biggest names in the scene including Giggs, Lady Leshurr, Lioness, Flirta D and many more.
What’s been the reception for your music from other artists?
At the start there was some confused looks when I got my violin out at a grime recording session! But everyone has really embraced and respected me bringing a live element to the genre which I’m grateful for. To be welcomed by some of the artists I loved growing up is an amazing feeling.
Do you believe that there’s much common ground between grime and classical music?
Of course. Not only in the instrumentation but in the experience: one person will get as much excitement listening to Beethoven to another person listening to Lethal Bizzle, and I respect both.
Which artists excite you most at the moment?
Ghetts, Lady Lykes, Truemendous, Nadia Rose…
Where do you go to discover new music? And where is your favourite place to perform?
I’m addicted to Instagram as most of my work comes through the platform, so I find out about new music on there as well as live gigs.
I’ve performed in some amazing places like the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury but I love performing at intimate venues just as much. Travelling abroad with my work is a dream and now grime is going global I’m aiming to do much more of it.
Where can people find out more about you and your music?
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