A multicultural band that strikes the right note is winning young offenders over to live music. Pete Roythorne reports
Sitting in front of us at one end of the sports hall are Klektivo, a four-piece band from north London. Their sound is a blend of Irish, oriental, African and South American, and if you stumbled across them on a night out in one of the capital's more eclectic nightspots you'd be pleasantly surprised.
This afternoon, their audience is a group of young people at Vinney Green secure unit in Bristol.
Klektivo is among a number of groups of musicians touring under the auspices of Live Music Now! South West's Music Space project. The project, which will run for 18 months initially, is part of Live Music Now!, a charity and outreach scheme which sets out to promote the enjoyment of live music among people who would not normally have access to it, as well as assisting gifted young professional musicians at the outset of their careers.
Music Space's own aim is to bring music to vulnerable young people caught up in the youth justice system of the south-west of England, and this is one of their taster sessions.
"The project kicked off in November last year," explains Live Music Now!South West director, Ali Smith. "We have been offering a variety of these taster sessions across a range of different musical styles and genres. The hope is that these will expand into longer-term projects tailored to each venue's needs.
"We're hoping the Vinney Green taster session will lead to a six-week workshop, providing they can get the interest and funding."
At present, music falls outside Vinney Green's standard curriculum and into what they term enriched activities, of which they are obliged to provide an hour each week day and seven over the weekend.
The problem is assessing the success of the project. Although all the work is monitored and evaluated on a continual basis, the yardsticks can be different in a place like Vinney Green, where if you start a workshop with 10 young people and you have eight at the end, that's a success.
However, Klektivo has more than enough to keep people interested and give them a taste for music. The combination of percussionistclarinettist Saul, guitaristvocalist Ben, Andean wind instrument specialist Mauricio and flautistzither player (another) Ben produces a fascinating multicultural blend. But it's not just their musical ability that impresses: Saul and Ben, in particular, command their audience. What could have been a harsh audience to crack finds itself being drawn in to guessing what part of the world a style of music the band is playing comes from, or playing one of the vast array of percussion instruments.
"It's important for us to inspire these kids and to broaden their musical outlook," says Saul.
"A lot of the time we'll find the kids are not really paying us much interest to start with, but by the end we win them over. You'll see them clapping behind their backs sometimes and wanting to come up and touch everything at the end."
And so it is at Vinney Green. What starts off as a mildly uninterested group turns into a riot of percussive exploration, which leaves the audience wanting more. Mission accomplished.