At Youth Music, we invest in creative music-making projects of every possible style and technique. We believe all music genres are equally valid and creative – so long as they’re taught in an inclusive and accessible way.
Music leaders encourage and inspire young people to learn at their own pace and in a way that best suits them. Sessions are collaborative and inclusive - young people are able to explore and develop their own interests and musical identities, learn from others, and discover new things.
Thanks to the funding we receive from the National Lottery via Arts Council England, we invest in around 350 music-making projects nationwide each year, reaching more than 75,000 children and young people. Every Youth Music project measures its impact, helping us build a unique national overview. For this blog, we looked back at the evaluation reports of projects we’ve funded for the past five years, to get a picture of all the different genres young people have been using. The music being made is exceptionally diverse - on average each project reports using nine different genres!
Young people choose the music they want to make
We discovered that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular genres were pop, rock and hip-hop. Two out of every three projects told us they worked with pop music. Three out of every five projects worked with rock, and one in every two projects made hip-hop or rap music.
In our evaluation forms, we have tick-boxes for the most popular genres. But we also leave space for project leaders to add in other genres they’ve been using, so we can spot emerging trends and understand young people’s preferences. We found that projects listed over 100 different additional genres of music.
Exploring music from around the world
This included a host of styles from around the globe, including music from Cameroon, Mali, Japan, Cuba, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, China and Congo. Music from Eastern Europe was mentioned frequently, drawing on folk, Roma and Gypsy traditions. Current trends in dance music were also well-accounted for, with projects listing not just drum & bass and dubstep, but also more localised styles such as gqom from South Africa and makina, a genre of Spanish origin which is particularly popular in the North East of England. There was also a breadth of experimental genres covering everything from ambient guitar music through to improv and free jazz, and even noise music.
The following videos showcase a selection of musical highlights performed by Youth Music participants nationwide...
Young people have the freedom and flexibility to explore the latest styles - trap music is particularly popular in the charts at the moment. This track from the Beats’n’Bars project (run by High Oak Youth and Community Centre in the West Midlands) brings together English and Spanish young people, trap stylings, and a positive equality message.
Participants often choose to borrow from historical styles too. Tang Hall Smart in York offers workshops exploring a variety of hip-hop subgenres. Although the heyday of rap-metal was in the early-2000s, this video shows that it’s still thriving!
R'n'B and easy listening
Mixing genres can be particularly creative and inspiring. Shallise, a participant in a Raw Material project in Brixton, sadly lost her father, a keen singer. In this track, she uses a sample of him singing ‘Here In My Heart’ by Fifties crooner Al Martino, to begin her heartfelt R’n’B song.
Cover versions offer opportunities for creative reinterpretation. Lancashire Youth Vocal Ensemble (LYVE) put together their own acapella arrangements, blending different genres and vocal styles including beatboxing.
Different genres offer possibilities for playing a whole range of instruments. Young people from the Music at The Edge project, run by Brixham Youth Enquiry Service in Devon, chose to cover the song Banjo, originally performed by country music group Rascal Flatts.
Many Youth Music projects support young people looking to make a career as professional musicians. Rapper Dámì Sule took part in the Rising Stars NW project in Manchester.
The Haze recorded this session as part of Merseyside Youth Association's MYA Noise Project. Many Youth Music projects have strong ties with their local music scenes, giving young people opportunities to get their music heard.