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Mental health charity in Islington is first in country to start own music label

Key Changes will release tracks by musicians who have gone through its programme

28 January, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Key Changes record label artists Ashley Weir and Daniella Tzairi

A CHARITY that uses the power of music to help mental health patients launched its own music label this week.

Key Changes, based at St Luke’s Community centre in Finsbury, is the first charity in the country to set up a record label.

It will release tracks by musicians who have gone through its programme.

Key Changes mentor Dan Clarke said: “We develop artists in every way. We’ve got to the point we work hard with the artists producing their music and they say to us: ‘What’s next?’ This is it.”

Key Changes artist performing 

Ashley Weir, 31, known as Stickzn15, is a grime artist from Highbury who chronicles his tough childhood in his lyrics. He came to Key Changes 10 years ago after being sectioned and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“Those were my worst days when I first came here. I had no confidence. I used to spend a year working on one song,” he said.

His most relatable song being released on the label, according to fellow musicians, is “Mad House”, a track chronicling the time when he was sectioned.

“It’s like being in prison,” he said. “The only difference is you have a mobile phone in hospital. People beat you up and it’s not a nice feeling.

“It’s worse than prison because the 10 other people you’re with are all talking to demons. Anyone who has been to hospital knows what I’m talking about.”

Music has been a “self-healing process”, he said. “That’s how I get better each year. I can say in my tunes my mum’s died. I can say in my songs everything that bothers me. I keep continuing to do that.

“Each time I put it in my song it’s like I’ve told hundreds of people. I don’t need to express
that news anymore. It’s out in the open, it helps my mental health.”

Left to Right: Daniella Tzairi (aka Yella), Isaac Cobbinah (aka AWIA), Ashley Weir (aka Stickzn15)

Daniella Tzairi, 36, aka Yella, says her Key Changes EP is called heya darlin because of an abiding memory from childhood while growing up around Parliament Hill.

“I used to sing in my mum’s house, loud, out the windows. There was a girl in the house opposite doing the same. All the neighbours would say to me: ‘Hi darling’ and I miss that part of the community because I live alone now.”

Isaac Cobbinah, 23, aka AWIA, agreed that music was a healing process, adding: “Key Changes gives you a chance to express yourself through music.”

The jazz musician’s EP released through the charity will be called Melanin Momentum.

An open mic launch will be staged at St Luke’s Community Centre, in Central Street, on Thursday (January 31) from 4pm to 6pm.

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