Are brass bands making a comeback?

The humble brass band isn’t a type of music that typically gets a lot of attention; they’re there in the background playing at your village fete or town festival year after year but they’re rarely singled out for much in the way of attention.

In recent years the genre has seen something of a comeback, however, with new brass bands popping up that sport current playlists, smaller ensembles and less funereal outfits than the traditional ill-fitting blazers, worn by men and women alike.

It’s a style of music that’s underrated at the best of times, forming the basis of some of classical music’s most powerful crescendos and influencing popular music styles like jazz and even ska.

The sound of a brass band playing is sure to send a wave of nostalgia through you, so read on to find out more about this underappreciated genre of music and whether it’s time for brass bands to have their moment in the spotlight once more.

Traditional brass bands

The traditional British brass band is a model that’s been exported to more or less all of the commonwealth countries, and brass bands usually consist of around 28 members. Playing a combination of brass instruments and percussion, the sound of a British brass band is distinct from other types because of its cheerful upbeat sound, unusual for an ensemble of brass instruments.

Brass bands have traditionally been military in nature and lend themselves to parades because musicians are able to march and play at the same time. In the UK they have become inextricably linked with the working class and the Industrial Revolution; many brass bands which exist to this day were set up by factories and pits as a leisure activity for the workers.

Many brass bands also travel the country (and sometimes beyond) to compete against other bands in order to win titles and prestige; the most famous of these is the National Brass Band Championships but competitions are held at all levels in which bands can compete.

One of the brass bands that will immediately spring to mind for many people is the Salvation Army Band, of which there is one wherever a Salvation Army exists. Music is a very important part of worship in the movement and playing in the band is very much encouraged, but Salvation Army bands can also be seen out and about at various events raising money for charity, or simply raising the profile of the Salvation Army.
Brass in the modern mainstream

Over the last few years the use of brass instruments in popular music has become quite routine, allowing artists to add a jazz or ska edge to their track. While songs backed by a full brass band are still fairly unusual, prominent brass instruments are not.

Vampire Weekend have seen significant success in the UK as well as at home in the States with their catchy ska-inspired tunes on which many brass instruments can be heard, while Rizzle Kicks’ Down With The Trumpets was a big hit in this country and Jason Derulo’s Trumpets was an international hit in 2013.

Away from pop music, Jamie Cullum’s young, fun brand of jazz has helped to bring a different type of music to the masses, and many imitators of all genres have started to use more brass instruments in their music over the last few years.

One of the coolest of the new wave of brass bands adding innovation to the tired old formula is the Hackney Colliery Band, which performs current hits and unlikely throwbacks (think covers of The Prodigy and David Bowie).

The old-meets-new tactic has won the band legions of loyal followers and each year they play to sold out audiences across the UK and beyond. If Hackney Colliery Band is anything to go by, then we’d say that brass is definitely back and with more talented brass bands appearing every day, it looks like it’s here to stay.

If you’re looking for the Hackney Colliery Band agent to book this innovative new band for your next event then look no further; they’re represented by MN2S in the UK and are available to book for all types of party and event.

  • krisobertas

    Brass bands seem to get recorded more off North America with the exception of guy like Hot 8 Brass Band in New Orleans. Check out these guys: Long tradition of brass party music in Europe.

  • krisobertas

    That’s not completely true, there are a bunch of latin flavoured bands, active and past, of which brass is an essential part. Grupo Fantasma for one.

  • krisobertas

    Thanks for your blog work over the years. Got me exploring lots of tunes I wouldn’t have heard otherwise!

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