Reflections from Graham Dowdall: Know Your Dance and Urban Genres Training MLSE

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

One of the rewards and also challenges of the work we do is being able and having to keep up with all the changes in music as times progress. As someone old enough to remember the Beatles (old Liverpool band) first releases its fantastic to me that new musics continue to emerge that excite me and that all add something to the incredible stew of music that we can dine on.

To engage with our clients in an age where music is exchanged by a plethora of methods and technologies we really need to have some understanding of how these new musics are made and also the context in which they are being made. Its against that backdrop that I have been developing a training strand around urban musics and how they have arrived at the place they are now. I know it'll restart an old debate but it definitely seems to be that its been in the areas of dance and urban styles that the greatest developments have occurred over the last few years - partly as they are, more than rock, technology driven styles and partly because they tend to emerge from the cultural melting pots of our great cities whether it be Grime (East End of London) Trip-hop (Bristol) Dubstep (S London) etc.

I really believe that the tools of a community musician need to include a wide knowledge of musics ranging from the blues to minimalism to garage rock to musique concrete to UK garage and everywhere in between or beyond and doing the research for the urban genres sessions never ceases to amaze me in terms of the connections and threads that run through music. Robert Johnson to the White Stripes might not seem such a big step but Pierre Schaeffer to Public Enemy, Bessie Smith to James Blake or Steve Reich to Donna Summer might seem a huge leap but once you listen to the soundworlds you realise that the threads that connect music over a hundred years are really evident but often not conscious.

As well as loving nearly all music (people will know my problems with the really challenging stuff - Celine Dionne or Oasis) I've also always been fascinated by youth culture having witnessed teddy boys become rockers, mods becoming skinheads, punks becoming bankers, hippies moving to Brighton etc as well as having had some of the dodgiest haircuts in history myself and the cultural connections between music and style that give young people a real sense of belonging remain as relevant today as they ever were. I love delivering this stuff, reminding people of the roots of so many current styles but also of the endless creativity that drives music today as it ever did.

These are exciting times for music if you can see past the plethora of Landfill Indie and Reality show dross, and Britain, at the vanguard of multi-culturalism remains at the vanguard too of new music - Wonky, Hynagogic, Aqua-crunk, UK Bass anyone ?