Within moments of Daniel Davis taking the stage at last spring's Reggae Block Party at the Custom House, a few thousand jaws collectively hit the ground. Seconds later, every person on the street was dancing, swaying, or grinning ear to ear. The headliner, international reggae superstar Pato Banton, became an afterthought. The emcee himself was speechless, repeating "18 years old!" after the violinist left the stage.
The 2007 graduate of Charleston's School of the Arts first picked up the fiddle about six years ago. If he's twice as good as he is now, he'll be playing Carnegie Hall at 24. By 30, children from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro will know his name.
Mandolins, guitars, keyboards, and an upright bass adorn the walls of the Davis family living room. Proficient on several instruments, Daniel doesn't limit himself to a style. He occasionally sits in with a country artist, plays classical compositions with ease, and holds his own in jazz combos. The boy breathes music.
For his solo performances, Davis layers beats and melodies on his computer, even adding in spoken word tracks like Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. "I find a hook to play on the violin in the beginning, and the rest is improvisation," says Davis. "I like to blend my style into jazz and hip-hop, finding something that people can relate to."
At the core of Davis' playing is a sincere passion for the music. He regularly gives lessons to friends and peers, even lending instruments out of their home. "There's so much more motivation when a young person is showing another young person techniques, because they can relate to one another," says Davis. "Every opportunity to play with someone offers new enlightenment and a chance to learn. I love performing and I love playing period."
Daniel Davis will open for Najee 7:30 p.m. on Sat. Sept. 29 at the Cistern. 66 George St. (843) 722-2764. Admission is $20. Check www.mojafestival.com and www.najeeonline.com for more. He will also play Porgy's Other Place Sun. Sept. 30. 137 Calhoun St. (843) 722-0023.