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Meet the Assistant Musicians!

Harry (left) and J-Rock (right) with Seneke in Kingston for NHS Wellbeing

Last month, Mbilla Arts gained two new assistant musicians, J-Rock and Harry, through the government Kickstart scheme. They’ve been helping lead musician Seneke out with the busy autumn period, and going into wintertime I (Eric) decided to interview them, and ask how they’re getting on…

Firstly, how has your first month and a half been at Mbilla Arts?

“I think it’s been really exciting, I’ve really enjoyed it – it’s also been a really great opportunity to earn whilst doing something I’m passionate about”, Harry says.

“Yeah, it’s been really great to experience the music of a different culture and to learn how to play it as well.”, J-Rock continued the sentiment. As musicians themselves, it makes a lot of sense they’ve been engaged an interested in the duties of the role as well.

To follow on from that, what have you most enjoyed?

Besides what’s already been mentioned regarding their time so far at Mbilla Arts, J-Rock tells me “Learning to play the different drums (Dun Dun, Djembe) and travelling”, and Harry agrees, “It’s great to travel to different places to play music”.

Gaining experiences and learning through this opportunity seems pretty evident from these comments.

What have you found challenging?

They found it quite physically challenging having to drum throughout a session, but J-Rock tells me “playing in front of an audience was difficult” he says, “but it helped me improve my confidence”, and as I remember from when I was with him and Harry during the NHS Kingston sessions, they were new to the role and I could sense some nervousness! He agreed that you do get used to playing in front of others, and that’s all part of gaining confidence. As for Harry, “Time management and planning”, which is of course something that I’m sure will improve with experience.

Where do you see yourselves in a year or 5 years’ time?

A bit of a cliché! But an important question to ask, I thought, as this work opportunity ties in with their interests.

Harry states “I just want to be doing something that makes me happy! - basically something to do with music, perhaps studying at uni, doing a course, or working a music job.” J-Rock is on a similar wavelength, telling me he hopes to “be able to support himself, making money through music any sort of way”.

Finally, following on, how do you think this placement will help you with those aspirations?

J-Rock explains a great point to me: “It’s opened me up to different, non-western, drumming styles and different types of rhythms. Learning different ways of playing and all this expands my musical knowledge [for the future]”. It’s great for me to hear he’s been engaged in a different way, and how that’s expanded his repertoire and understanding on what he’s passionate about.

Harry then added his perspective: “Playing drums live is a great experience, for me it’s the opportunity of adding musical experience to my CV, along with the opportunity to perform.” He basically mentions being able to work in schools etc has provided him with useful experience.

It was great to interview these great young musicians, and to hear how much they’ve been learning and how engaged they’ve been in their roles. For me, it’s good to get a sense of development through experiencing a different cultural perspective on their shared passion of music. On top of that, gaining experience in workshops taking place across the capital (and some outside) in schools and eclectic venues has clearly been something J-Rock and Harry have been taking in, enjoying, and learning from as part of a great work opportunity for them, and they’ve still got a few more months to go!

As for me, this is my last post for my own placement, and I’ve really quite enjoyed it. I echo the sentiments of J-Rock and Harry, having learned so many transferrable skills - engaging myself in various local networks and beyond, and expanding my confidence and knowledge. I hope to continue with these things in the near future!


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