Rap tu­to­ri­als help trou­bled pupils turn a new page

The Scotsman - - Features - BY CHRIS MC­CALL

Some of Scot­land’s most trou­bled chil­dren, many of whom have ex­pe­ri­enced trauma, are hav­ing their lives turned around by the op­por­tu­nity to learn mu­sic through hip-hop and rap.

The Com­mu­nity Ori­en­tated and Op­por­tu­nity Learn­ing (COOL) project is a mod­est, one-to-one ap­proach de­liv­ered by mu­si­cians who have often had to face their own trou­bled back­grounds.

New re­search by Glas­gow Cale­do­nian Uni­ver­sity (GCU) sug­gests that such smallscale in­ter­ven­tions may be more ef­fec­tive in ad­dress­ing the chal­lenges as­so­ci­ated with “hard-to-reach” young peo­ple.

Funded by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment and the Euro­pean So­cial Fund, COOL Mu­sic is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween re­searchers at GCU and prac­ti­tion­ers at Heavy Sound, an East Loth­ian-based com­mu­nity in­ter­est com­pany fo­cus­ing on build­ing young peo­ple’s con­fi­dence and self-es­teem through mu­sic-mak­ing.

Heavy Sound was founded by for­mer rap­per Jor­dan But­ler, who was home­less by the age of 13 and a vic­tim of phys­i­cal and sex­ual as­sault, with a his­tory of ad­dic­tion to drugs and al­co­hol. He now leads a team of tu­tors who use mu­sic­mak­ing to en­gage young peo­ple to im­prove their health and well­be­ing. The project started last year and works with young peo­ple aged be­tween 12 and 18, many with poor school at­ten­dance records.

One teenager, quoted in the GCU re­search, said: “I used to be a bam. This project has made me think maybe I’m not all of that be­cause I have been try­ing hard and a lot of things

0 For­mer rap­per Jor­dan But­ler leads a team of tu­tors who use mu­sic-mak­ing to en­gage young peo­ple have been go­ing good in my life now.”

Lead re­searcher Dr Stephen Mil­lar said learn­ing to make mu­sic helped hard-to-reach young­sters ex­press them­selves and share their prob­lems.

“If gov­ern­ments wish to ef­fec­tively ad­dress is­sues fac­ing trou­bled young peo­ple, it may be ben­e­fi­cial to al­low com­mu­nity-based or­gan­i­sa­tions to con­trib­ute to ser­vice de­liv­ery,” he said. “When de­sign­ing and im­ple­ment­ing in­ter­ven­tions for im­proved well­be­ing of young peo­ple, the ‘big­ger is bet­ter’ ap­proach may not al­ways be ap­pli­ca­ble.”

Scots­man colum­nist Dar­ren Mc­gar­vey, one of Scot­land’s best-known hip-hop per­form­ers, said the power of mu­sic could have a trans­for­ma­tional ef­fect on young peo­ple.

“Hip hop evolved from street cul­ture in dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties,” he said. “For many young peo­ple grow­ing up in ad­ver­sity, rap is their first lit­er­ary ex­pe­ri­ence. As an art form it ap­peals to young men from vi­o­lent com­mu­ni­ties in par­tic­u­lar be­cause they iden­tify with the emo­tions of that ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s a great ve­hi­cle for con­nect­ing peo­ple who may oth­er­wise find them­selves iso­lated.”

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