British dancer and violinist Saskia Horton is known both for her classically-trained musical skills and her prowess in the art of ‘krumping’ – a super high energy dance form that originated in the US. In fact, her moves are so impressive that singer FKA Twigs handpicked her to star in a film she directed. Read on to discover what makes Saskia DIFFERENT…
You recently played at the London Jazz Festival with your band, Nihilism – how did it go?
It was great – we played two gigs which was crazy because we weren’t supposed to. Our own gig was quite a small intimate affair, we felt really together when we were playing and exploded the room with energy which was really cool. Luckily, my drummer is part of another band who couldn’t do their gig so their promoter brought us in. That gig was a lot bigger than our own and we were opening for Floacist who’s so amazing and beautiful. Doing that gig kicked us up the butt a bit – we were prepared but not to be on that level, so that was a really good experience.
How did you know you wanted to become a violinist?
My mum is a singer, and my dad loves music so they both wanted me to play something when I was around 8 or 9. It’s really cheesy but I used to watch princess movies on VHS and there was a Swan Lake scene with a beautiful violin that was played by Nicola Benedetti. I remembered watching the ‘Behind The Scenes’ more than the actual movie because it was about Nicola Benedetti going to Julliard and her energy, how she played and spoke about music.
How would describe your sound?
For Nihilism, our sound is like pure vibe, pure vibrations that are explosive, raw and to be reckoned with. I’d say our sound is movement as well, I knew these guys were going to be in my band for the fact that they cannot stay still when they play and they aren’t dancers. To me I don’t understand Jazz cats that play straight-faced. With the violin, I guess my sound is really influenced by Funk, Grime and Hip Hop, trying to incorporate a lot of what I’ve learnt from Jazz – it’s a real fusion of stuff.
Which musicians or artists inspire you?
I grew up listening to a lot of Motown, Michael Jackson, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, I always draw inspiration from that kind of area of music. As I started to get into dance, that’s when I started to get into Hip Hop, and that’s a whole other realm in itself. Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino are my biggest influences in Rap and Kendrick’s latest album featured so many Neo-Soul pioneers like Thundercat, Robert Glasper, Dilla.
Recently I’ve been getting inspired by UK artists like Kojey Radical. I’ve just listened to some of his albums and I’ve never heard music that’s just been built around poetry which is crazy. I think the South-London Jazz scene, which my band is a part of is coming up and about to blow.
When did you get into dance, more specifically ‘Krumping’?
I’ve been dancing forever, my dad would definitely say that. You know when you’re young and your parents put you into Ballet and Tap, I was doing that when I was little. My parents were never really into Hip Hop dance, so I found my own way into that. I actually got approached after freestyling (probably not very well) at a school dance to join a crew in Peckham Rye when I was 14.
It was mainly choreography I was learning, but it wasn’t til I was 16, when I danced in a company, that I saw this guy who would keep dancing after we stopped the choreography. He was doing movement that looked like complex choreography but he was making it up. He was Krumping essentially, and I was like “teach me”. From there I started training in Krump and battling more.
What is ‘Krumping’ to you and how does it make you feel?
Krump to me is the rawest form of expression, and often the most honest. When you watch it, there’s something that grabs you and pulls you in. It’s funny because I feel a lot of people watch videos of it but don’t know what it is, like people say it’s really aggressive but it’s not. I’d say it’s the opposite actually, it’s just expressive. When everyone comes together and hypes you up, you feel connected.
As a female, I feel empowered incredibly because Krump is predominately male dominated. People would think that the foundations of Krump are counteracting femininity but for me, it’s a real release in that sense because as women we aren’t allowed to be loud and scream our feelings. But with Krump you can make noise, and also be incredibly articulate and tell stories.
How did it feel to work and dance for FKA Twigs?
Interestingly I met Twigs at a dance battle competition, she followed my sister on Instagram and sent had her some clothes which I borrowed for the competition. It’s really funny because Twigs came up to me and asked “is that my jacket?”
A year later she tweeted that she was looking for a violinist for her show at the Roundhouse, so I went audition and ended up Krumping whilst playing the violin, which was crazy. Since then, I’ve done different shows with her; either dancing or playing violin, sometimes both. What I love about working with her is that she respects you as an artist and gives you so much creative freedom, daring you to imagine beyond your limits.
Who would be your ‘dream’ artist to work with?
There are a lot of incredible musicians and artists out there. I would like to work with Kendrick because his music is so complex and elements of theatre, stage design, and dance could be added. As an artist, I relate more to Childish Gambino. I listened to his album, Because The Internet, which was the first album I listened all the way through to. He’s like a multi-disciplinary artist as well and does everything.
I try to keep myself surrounded with creative people.
As a dancer and musician, how do you stay inspired to create?
I try to keep myself surrounded with creative people. I go to a lot of gigs and jams, in terms of the Hip Hop underground there is such a beautiful, vibrant community in London which I could never leave. I get so much inspiration from being a part of those cultures. I also love to read and watch movies so anything visual inspires me incredibly.
How would you describe your style?
I think I have a crazy style that reflects the multiple versions of me. I love to embrace both the masculine and feminine. I have a lot of traditional Malay clothing made by my grandma who’s Malaysian, and I wear really funky colours. I have these crazy red, velvet flairs that I love.
Have Dr. Martens always been a part of your style?
I haven’t actually owned a pair but my sister has so I steal them. I’ve gotten into really chucker boots, I got a pair of epic boots from Twigs and I love that style. I’m a massive shoe fanatic, take me to shoe store and I’ll be there forever.
What makes you DIFFERENT?
My ethos and the code which I live by is to be real in everything that I do and to seek out the realness within people. I think that Krump is the rawest form of collective consciousness. The music that my band plays, we have a collective consciousness and I think my life goal would be to bring everyone together through collective consciousness – very idealistic. But more simply, I refuse to believe when people have told me ‘no’ it means no.