Nubya Garcia: arts funding cuts will make music “very elitist”


The moment Nubya Garcia realized that she and her collaborators were on to something was when she heard electronic producer Four Tet perform Moses Boyd’s “Rye Lane Shuffle” track at a DJ. set Boiler Room in 2015. The song, on which Garcia plays bass clarinet. alongside Binker Golding on saxophone, Theon Cross on tuba and Boyd on drums, is basically a piece of jazz. But it shook the dancefloors.

“See and hear this song pop up on the dance floor!” Garcia said, shaking his head. “People dance to the grooves of Binker, Theon and Moses – you know what I mean? It was crap. It broke out all over the world. He jumped every time. We barely have voices in our music. So to hear people singing our songs is crazy. It’s like: do you know that horn line? “

When I meet Garcia backstage at the Green Man Festival at the end of August, she is having one of the busiest weekends of her life. Due to play a set on the main stage at the Welsh festival, warming up the crowd for Thundercat and Fountains DC, she has just arrived from Cambridgeshire, where she performed at the Gilles Peterson club-influenced event, We Out Here. The night before, she was in Birmingham for Mostly Jazz. Two days earlier, she had performed her first ball at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The 30-year-old London saxophonist from Camden is part of a thriving jazz scene in the capital that increasingly exists beyond the parameters of jazz. The Vast Sound Qualities of Garcia’s Music – His First Disc Source, who was nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize, combines dub and calypso beats with psychedelic soul and blues, making her as at home in a London jazz club as a Brecon Beacons pitch. .

Being invited to play at the Proms, a traditionally predominantly white, male, upper-middle-class institution, was “very special,” says Garcia, who wears sunglasses with reflective lenses and a black one. Source hoodie when we talk. “It’s definitely not where we usually play, but I think it’s so important for them to bring groups like mine into space, to diversify the situation. It is a very beautiful thing to witness the change. You can’t realize what’s going on because you’re a part of it, and then you come out of it and say to yourself, in fact, that it’s really a big deal.


The Royal Albert Hall looked like a new kind of space to her, she says, but “I always feel at home wherever I go with my group. When you carry such a beautiful community with you, you can go anywhere and still feel like you are not outside.

For Garcia, music has always existed alongside the community. She began her music education at the age of four at the council-run Camden Music Service, where she played the violin and viola. She played strings until the age of 18, obtaining a formal education at the London Schools Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Academy junior, then chose to focus on the saxophone, which she had started. to play around the age of 12. concert hall, she met Boyd and Cross, who she still plays with now. “I’ve played in a lot of very different spaces, from very elitist to very open and diverse. They have all provided me with musical and social education in different wonderful ways.

But it was Tomorrow’s Warriors, an innovative jazz education program aimed specifically at black musicians, musicians and players who cannot afford a career in music, “where I really found my life. community, ”Garcia says. “It was our youth club. This is where 17 year olds who wanted to learn about bebop would go. We would all share tunes and write together. This is where I really started to come out of my shell. She then studied jazz at the Trinity Laban Conservatory in Greenwich.

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Garcia has benefited from free music lessons, council-funded programs, and grants to take music lessons during school vacations. But now, she says, “music education is completely different from what it was when I grew up.” Tomorrow’s Warriors is a charity. Since Garcia left, he has lost government funding and had to crowdfund to keep his program free. “When everything started to change, with people who didn’t give a damn about music education, they went to having to lift everything themselves,” she explains. In 2018, a Yorkshire high school came under fire for asking students to take GCSE music lessons after school. A 2019 report showed that children from families earning less than £ 28,000 a year were half as likely to learn a musical instrument as those from families with incomes over £ 48,000. In July of this year, the government approved a 50% cut in funding for university arts and design courses.

Garcia points out that access to music education is expensive and not just because of the cost of the lessons themselves. Programs such as Tomorrow’s Warriors have helped her with “all those things that people forget”: instrument costs, travel costs for music lessons and rehearsals, the need for a practice space at home. outside the house. The Conservative Party’s cuts to arts funding, Garcia continues, will make the music industry “very elitist – even more elitist than music already is.” This will significantly affect the spread of diversity in the future, for young people who come from music and want to continue. They won’t see it as a possibility, but as a fight.

“I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t had music lessons,” Garcia says, looking backstage as his band prepares to do some balances. “Playing music is such an imperative form of expression, like dancing, singing or playing sports. It’s all about finding different ways of expressing yourself, and that’s really important in the world we live in because we don’t all want to be little worker bees for the system. You should have the ability to know where your lane is. And if you never sit in front of the path, you will never find it.

“SOURCE ⧺ WE MOVE”, a remix album by Nubya Garcia, releases on Concord Jazz on October 22.

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