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Five on it: we need to talk about accessibility in music

This week, charity Youth Music put out a report called Reshape Music, looking at opportunities for disabled musicians – our music editor highlights some of the findings, plus rounds up some of this week's releases from Lous and the Yakuza, Bishi, Navy and more.

16 Oct 2020

Five on it photography: image of Jess Fisher via Reshape Music

Understandably, it feels like everyone has been fuming lately. Fuming about the government’s response to the pandemic, fuming about the ongoing destruction of the creative industries, fuming about already-precarious jobs becoming more and more insecure.

But the thing is, for a lot of people the music industry has always been inaccessible – this period of time is just speeding up and laying bare something that was already true. The existing model does not serve those who are marginalised, and class, race and gender all have a part to play in this. But today I wanted to talk briefly about ableism in music.

This week, charity Youth Music put out a report called Reshape Music, that looks at how disabled musicians are absent from music education and how they miss out on music-making opportunities. The report found that the majority of music retailers were unaware of specialist products or adapted instruments to make music more accessible, that educators often didn’t know how to teach on these and that disabled musicians often didn’t know how and where to source such adapted instruments. It also found that finance was a huge barrier, with many disabled musicians unaware of funding opportunities to make music-making viable.

Even from lived experience, how many venues have you been to that are fully accessible to disabled audiences, but also to disabled artists?

I’ve said before that it’s not surprising this government is reinforcing rigid rules around what kinds of creativity have value, and who has access to it in the first place. But music is not a luxury good, nor should it ever be. As we all fight back and try to protect the spaces we do have, it’s worth thinking about the spaces we are looking to build moving forward, because I am not interested in just reaffirming the industry as it has been before. 

Music is powerful, it is restorative, it is expression, it is joy, it is beauty – it lifts me up when I am exhausted of everything. But if those of us who work within this space aren’t still pushing to make it more inclusive and accessible, then we have a problem.

It is high time we look at reshaping music.

For now, here’s Five on it:

Lous and the Yakuza – Gore

The way I have been waiting for this album! Belgian-Congolese artist Lous makes majestic, sculptural music with silky French bars. This is refined and beautiful.

NEO 10Y – ‘Unrelatable Autosexual’

The fourth song they’ve put out this year, this speaks to themes NEO 10Y’s work often deals with. Think breathy, sexy self-love and future-facing utopias, all built over an intriguing grunge-y trap beat.

Navy – ‘Pity’

Hailing from Dominica, Navy is part of Caribbean music collective Taste of Pluto. Her latest solo track is a smooth offering, full of soft-focus instrumentation and formidable vocals as she speaks about the hard reality of a love interest already being married.

Bishi – ‘Don’t Shoot The Messenger’

Bishi is a low-key legend among South Asian musicians in the UK, so it’s gratifying to see her getting her flowers and working with the incredible Tony Visconti on this (he’s best known for his production with David Bowie). Psych-tinged and soaring, this is a dreamy epic of a song.

Enny – ‘Peng Black Girls’ ft. Amia Brave

This is a warm little bop from newcomer Enny, celebrating the Black women around her in SE London. Melding singing with deft rap, this is a gorgeous, sweet track.