Are brass bands making a comeback?

Tuba-tter believe it, argues Daniel Fahey...

Are brass bands making a comeback?

Photographer: MorgaineDaniel Fahey on 11 November 2011

When a scene emerges, it’s usually given some crazy, pigeonholing moniker by journalists. Sometimes it’s a considered neologism, like necromantic rock or moombahton, others it’s just nonsense like fizzle wizzle pop or whatever swirls around a hack’s mind near a deadline.

I’m not going to attempt to create an alias for the emergence of brass bands, merely because it’s more of a reemergence, a twist on tradition. It’s not an all-out new sound, purely an updated, and damn-saxy upgrade, from the great marching bands of the past.

It may have been The Soul Rebels Brass Band’s appearance on Later With… Jools Holland on Tuesday night that sealed affection with sheer foot-stomping boldness and a glimmer of the New Orleans Mardi Gras, but it started a few years back when we slavered over effortlessly dynamic and well-restructured covers by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.


The clattering drums and hollered chorus of ‘Sexual Healing’, a Marvin Gaye cover, helped lead the Chicago nine-piece around the world, ending up with a tuba-full of Glastonbury shows and even at Field Day in 2010. Their original material is equally compelling.

But it’s the passion with which the groups perform live that always makes the shows as convincing as they are enjoyable, something The Soul Rebels Brass Band proved on their Jools show with a rendition of ‘Sweet Dreams’.


If you need any more persuading, the Hackney Colliery Band is possibly a good wager. Orchestrated and energized by formidable frontman, Nick Ashwood, who bounces and bobbles with his Sideshow Bob curls, the group has a repertoire of great covers from Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ to Toto’s ‘Africa’.



If you’re still digging, London’s Brassroots funk it up with the best of them too. I first heard them at them played by Mr Scruff at The Big Chill, a lip-pumping, trombone-owning rendition of ‘Good Life’ by Inner City that had the tent marching in sweaty unison.


For more, check out the Brakin’ Brass Festival at London’s Rich Mix on Saturday 19 November.

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