As part of Brandeis’ annual Bronstein Weekend, Student Events held “Brandeis’ Got Talent: The Final Jam,” an exhibition of student talents, satirically named after Disney’s 2010 film “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.” Featuring a plethora of musically gifted students and a few comedians from Brandeis’ improv groups TBA and Crowd Control, “The Final Jam” was certainly a sight to see for the few students who happened to stop by the SCC atrium this past Friday evening. Among these performances were three that truly stood out among the mediocrity that often accompanies such performances.
By far, the most interesting and unique (in a completely non-spiteful sense of the words) performance of the night was by Valarie Timms ‘16, as she rapped an impressively informative version of the Bill of Rights. Incorporating a catchy chorus, “It’s the Bill of Rights, it’s the bill of your rights. It’s time to take your knowledge up to unfamiliar heights,” in between informationally dense verses, the rap that Timms performed brought alive the spirit of learning that is not prevalently found in tertiary education. “I first learned the rap back in senior year of high school as part of a project for APUSH,” says Timms. “I wanted to do something that was fun and creative and I found this rap on the Internet. I thought it would be cool to bring it full circle and perform it my senior year of college in the talent show.”
A politics and American studies double major, with a double minor in journalism and legal studies, the subject matter of Timms’ performance comes as no surprise. She describes herself by saying, “I am a total nerd and performed this super nerdy thing.” This performance is not in itself a seemingly oxymoronic combination of modern day and history, as large-scale productions like “Hamilton” have also incorporated elements of rap music. Although Timms would like to point out that she was, in fact, “rapping historical documents before it was cool.”
Eli Kengmana ’19 earned acclaim for his performance of ACDC’s “Thunderstruck,” as arranged by Italian guitarist, Luca Stricagnoli. In the percussive-acoustic style, which includes a lot of picking and strumming techniques, and most notably the utilization of the body of the guitar as a percussive instrument, Kengmana’s performance replaced the high energy rhythm of the original song with a high level of musical tact and technical difficulty. “The percussive style just makes songs sound a lot more interesting and you can sound like a one-man band with just one instrument,” Kengmana says. “I can take songs like ‘Problem’ by Ariana Grande or ‘Disturbia’ by Rihanna, and try to play the multiple parts on the guitar (drums, bass and/or vocal parts), or just play the drums and chords and then have friends sing along with it, and it can still sound like a relatively full band playing.”
Having a diverse group of influences, like Mike Dawes and the aforementioned Stricagnoli, as well as music from better known artists like Buckethead and Blink-182, Kengmana expresses an equally rich array of emotions through his music that, pun intended, truly resonates with the audience. Although he does not foresee himself pursuing a career in music at the moment, Kengmana wholeheartedly expresses his intention to continue studying and improving his skills at the guitar, whether it’s through performing at gigs, jamming with company or even just practicing at his own leisure.
Last but certainly not least, the winners of the show and of two VIP passes to Springfest were sisters Deniz and Selen Amado ’18, whose soulful rendition of Adele’s latest hit, “When We Were Young,” left few dry eyes in the audience. “Adele has always been one of my biggest inspirations!” says Deniz. “I love her new album and I think ‘When We Were Young’ is the most emotional one in the album.”
Members of Brandeis’ a cappella group Starving Artists, Selen remarks that working with the group is often her favorite part of the week. “When we start rehearsal, I forget about all the studying I have to do and just have so much fun!” she says. “The music that I do with my sister is also like that, like therapy. Whenever we are stressed or tired or feeling bad, we start playing the piano and the guitar, and sing.” Besides singing, Deniz and Selen both began their musical education at a young age, learning to play the piano, guitar and other instruments at age six, citing that their mother had a great influence on teaching them how to sing and harmonize.
Influenced by many artists such as Adele, Sia and Freddy Mercury, Deniz and Selen’s combined voices express a strength found in the above artists that is not too common in vocalists of their register and level of experience. With their use of harmonies and accompanying instrumentation, the musical stylings of Deniz and Selen closely resemble that of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg of the indie-folk group First Aid Kit and the slightly more popular trio of sisters in HAIM. At the same time, they express a uniqueness that most definitely played a role in securing their winning positions in the show.
Although awarding only a select number main prises, each participant received a participation trophy conspicuously in the shape of an Oscar.