Hip-hop and classical music unite when it comes to Emmy award-winning violinist, Damien Escobar. Art Set Free, a New York-based global showcase that aims to create the world’s largest collection of public art over this year, has selected Escobar to be a part of the first digital art installation that will be shown on the monumental screen at Brookfield Place in NYC. Art Set Free has received over 3,000 submissions from artists in over 50 countries. With a children’s book, music video and tour planned for the near future, being a part of this installation is definitely one of his most humbling moments thus far, says Escobar.

WHEN DID YOU ACTUALLY START INCORPORATING HIP-HOP INTO YOUR PERFORMANCES? It was purely an accident. I’m from South Jamaica, Queens. That’s where I was born. I mean Queens has a lot of great emcees come out of it from Nas, 50 Cent and other Queens’ pioneer artists. And me living there hip-hop was so prevalent. You have to imagine being an eight-year-old kid, playing classical music and living in the hood. I used to tell people on the weekends I was with Bach and during the week I was with Dr. Dre, and that’s how I felt.

“At this stage in my career I just like doing things that are so impromptu, so creative, so artistic and not the norm. It’s all about pushing barriers and pushing the envelopes.”

WHAT’S THE FIRST SONG YOU LEARNED AND WHO TAUGHT YOU? I remember one of the first songs I played on the instrument was “Twinkle Twinkle” and I learned how to play that song in like two weeks. My teacher was thoroughly impressed with me. So “Twinkle Twinkle” came first and of course, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, the nursery type songs.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE PLACE YOU LIKE TO PERFORM? I wanted to do something to give back to my city. I did five-minute concerts in every part of New York City, just popping up on the corner. I bought the whole sound setup and did a quick five-minute performance and left. It was like 105 degrees and I was like, ‘yo ain’t nobody bring any water?’ At this stage in my career I just like doing things that are so impromptu, so creative, so artistic and not the norm. It’s all about pushing barriers and pushing the envelopes.

YOU WERE CHOSEN AS ONE OF THE FIRST 10 FOR THE ART SET FREE DIGITAL INSTALLATION. HOW WERE YOU SELECTED AND HOW DID YOU FIND OUT THE NEWS? A good friend of mine who shot the video that was submitted told me about it. He was like, ‘look I think we should submit to this, it kind of encompasses everything that you’re about.’ I was like, ‘it’s not worth it; ours is not going to get picked,’ but it just so happens that it did.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE BEEN SELECTED IN ART SET FREE AMONG OTHER TALENTED INTERNATIONAL CREATIVE ENGINEERS? For me it’s humbling. Especially with a platform like this, it helps creative people, creative minds and people that’s pushing the envelope. It helps us get one step closer to our goal. I’m so appreciative, especially for top 10.

WHAT DO YOU AIM TO ACCOMPLISH WITH THE AUDIENCE DURING A PERFORMANCE? My whole mantra for 2013 and 2014 is I am me. Letting people know the importance of being themselves. I know who I am now and I never want to lose that.

Interview By. Moreblessing Munangwa