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A night of hope at the Youth Music Awards 2021

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Written by NextGen Contributing Writer Phoebe Patrick

The Youth Music Awards, in association with Hal Leonard Europe, were in full swing at Troxy, London, last Wednesday 20 October.

The awards, which were rescheduled from 2020 due to COVID-19, celebrate the most forward-thinking projects and people making, learning and earning in music. CEO of Youth Music, Matt Griffiths, set the energy for the night in his opening speech, saying, “After everything we’ve all been through over the last 18 months, it’s so exciting to be together and celebrate so many achievements".

Jinx ceo at music fusion at youth music awards
Credit: Will Ireland

Regular people helping other regular people make better choices through making music

- Jinx Prowse, CEO of Music Fusion, winner of the Social Action Award sponsored by Hal Leonard Europe

As part of Youth Music’s NextGen programme, supporting young people to gain paid experience in the music industries, more than 20 18-25 year olds worked on the night. Their roles included Hosts, Photographers, Presenters, Social Media Executives, Event and PR runners – and even a live illustrator who created artwork throughout the evening.

NextGen Presenter Nieema said, "Working at Youth Music Awards was the first real step in me achieving my goals and dreams of presenting and working within the music industry. I was also so in awe of all of the talent and passion from every single person I interacted with, saw perform, worked with and interviewed that night. I was so inspired by everyone around me and being given that opportunity by Youth Music is something I’ll never forget and will always be grateful for. I feel reinvigorated and ready to take on my goals! Watch this space for 2022." 

Sans Soucis, a Youth Music project alumni from the Abram Wilson Foundation, opened the night with a captivating performance. before being revealed as winner of the Original Track Award (Solo) sponsored by TikTok, Sans Soucis said: “Winning this award means a lot of hope, for me and for others.”

Sans Soucis on stage at the youth music awards
Credit: Will Ireland

Winning this award means a lot of hope

- Sans Soucis, winner of the Original Track Award (Solo) sponsored by TikTok

Hope was a theme which ran through the night, with the second performer MAN0 prefacing his music with a spoken-word poem titled Hope. The poem was a letter to his future self, written during lockdown and indicative of the optimistic thoughts he had towards his future, which he’s made progress on through making music.

The audience were invited to vote on the Live Performance Award, sponsored by Allianz Musical Insurance. Sarah Angel, Lavz and TEE all performed original songs created in the last year. Sarah Angel kicked off the performances with her song ‘You Do You’. Her message, of being authentically yourself, resonated through er performance (plus her amazing outfit which received a scream from the crowd).

Lavz was next to take the stage with a “Lavz Live” performance of G.T.K.Y (Get To Know You). A happy, energetic, hip-hop performance encapsulated the audience and her infectious energy shone.

TEE performing on stage
Credit: Will Ireland

The last live performance was from TEE, an artist shaped by the constant desire to make music that teaches listeners. His performance of Black Wings did just that, a powerful rap about TEE’s relationship with his race and his experiences. His performance beautifully captured the discourse around race that dominated headlines back in 2020. The power of his lyrics won him the Live Performance Award as well as the Lyricist Award, which couldn’t have been more deserved.

Words also played a powerful role in the Music Video Award, where winner D.M.S expressed her lyrics through signs. She performed Makaton signs in her video, which was an important way for her to make her music accessible for a wider audience as Makaton is designed to help hearing people with learning or communication difficulties. This accessibility got her a well-earned award for her music video for ‘Can’t Stop Drawing’.

There were so many worthy winners throughout the awards, some more surprised than others. Accepting the Music Producer Award, Priv on the Beat cheekily said, “I sorta knew I was gonna win”, whilst other winners were more shocked and overwhelmed, like Violet May, winner of the Original Track (Group) Award alongside Brixton Chamber Orchestra.

I sorta knew I was gonna win

– Priv on the Beat

Music Fusion: Words not Weapons

Meet the winner's of our Social Action Award sponsored by Hal Leonard Europe, a project we've invested in since 2011, thanks to funding from Arts Council via National Lottery. 

Awards didn’t stop at just musicians either, with the Young Leader Award, Entrepreneur Award, the Inspirational Music Leader Award, the Outstanding Project Award and finally the Social Action Award. These awards focussed on the impact of musical projects in their communities.

There were many inspirational winners, with the final winner of the night, Music Fusion’s Words Not Weapons project, really summarising what Youth Music is all about. Jinx Prowse, CEO of Music Fusion explained their mission as an organisation to be ”Not school, not police, not social services just regular people helping other regular people make better choices through making music.”

To finish an incredible night, the Troxy stage hosted more amazing performers including rapper and producer Superlative and Karis Jade, mental health advocate and DJ Vanessa Maria and Kiss FM’s Ellie Prohan, an active ally for representation of women of colour and the LGBTQIA+ community in the music industry. These performers demonstrated the duality of creating music and promoting social change.

Pa Salieu performing on stage in a white jacket
Credit: Ned Helyar

The final performance of the night came from BRIT-nominated Coventry star and BBC Sound of 2021, Pa Salieu, who credits his success to a Youth Music funded-project in Coventry, Positive Youth Foundation, where he began his music career.

Salieu’s success is emblematic of the work that Youth Music do, and how young people can find hope through music. This success is shared by so many young people that have been able to make, learn and earn from music thanks to Youth Music. The YMAs 2021 were the perfect way to look to the future, which, as Matt Griffiths concluded “It’s often difficult to grasp what the future will look like, but we know it must be led and shaped by young people, with equity, diversity and inclusion at the forefront.

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