Finding Rhythms Taster Session for Young People in Peckham

Mountview – a performing arts school logo

During February half term 2020, we ran a taster session at Mountview – a performing arts school in Peckham, South London – to introduce some local organisations and young people to Finding Rhythms and show them what we do.

Finding Rhythms musicians, Robin Harris and Rob Bradley worked with young people from the Bradfield Youth Club in Peckham and Element, an organisation that works with young care leavers and asylum seekers in Southwark. Below, Rob tells us a bit more about the day.

“In the morning I worked with a group of young asylum seekers who had no previous experience of creating music or using music software or hardware. I started them off with the very basics and the 5 participants took turns in experimenting with individual drum hits and instrument sounds. Slowly, I demonstrated how sounds can be layered and how compositions can form. We added hand and vocal percussion parts until the participants had developed the confidence to record their own vocals on top of our beat. Nobody sung in English and they were encouraged to sing in their mother tongue and focus on melody and rhythm. There was one particular moment when one participant had me clutching my chest as he astounded the room with his beautiful natural voice. None of the participants spoke much English but this did not create a great challenge as sometimes words get in the way anyway and we could all communicate through music.

In the afternoon, I lead a session with a small group of teenagers from Bradfield Youth Club. Some of the boys already had experience of writing lyrics and recording vocals so I helped them arrange their first beat. They experimented with sound selection and composition until they had built a track they were happy with. They then recorded some raps on the beat and collaborated with each other on a high energy banger of a track. We then begun work on another track as I helped one boy build a melodic piano led beat for his to freestyle rap on. I followed his direction and tailored the beat to his taste. He then was let loose on the mic and improvised an emotional and heartfelt freestyle rap for 10 minutes that was as much to do with venting pain and releasing emotion as it was to do with rhyming and catching the rhythm. He told stories of fallen friends, ambition and confusion and left the room silent in contemplation before we burst into celebration at his achievement. It was a powerful session and he left with a real sense of contribution. ”

Rob Bradley

The sessions were a great success. Maeve from Element told us:

“Just wanted to say a massive thank you for the workshop yesterday! The group learnt a lot (as did I!) and it was great to have a space to make something together……I’ve known all the young people in the group for a year and rarely hear them speak in their mother tongues. There’s such a focus on (unaccompanied asylum-seeking children learning English, and little else in school/college. We run arts projects as a way to introduce different art mediums and support the development of young people’s skills. More than this though, we think it’s crucial for young people to have a space to explore what’s important to them and their identity. The group yesterday shared songs from their home countries- Sudan and Eritrea- and we made a track with vocals in Tigrinya, Arabic and Fur. “

We look forward to working more with these organisations in the future.

These sessions were very kindly funded by Peckhamplex.