Larbert schoolgirl impresses Army musicians

Schoolgirl Leila McPhate had her rap recorded by Army musicians after they were impressed by her efforts.
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Schoolgirl Leila McPhate had her rap recorded by Army musicians after they were impressed by her efforts.

The 12-year-old Larbert High pupil wrote The World is a Dark Place for international arts competition Never Such Innocence, which gives children and young people a voice on conflict.

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Leila had learned at school how people from the Caribbean were invited to the UK to help it rebuild after WWII but frequently faced injustice and discrimination. After seeing the black British artist Dave on the Brit Awards she decided to address the issue with a rap.

Leila McPhateLeila McPhate
Leila McPhate

The Army was among the supporters of the 2019/20 competition and Leila’s song caught the eye of Lieutenant Colonel Wendy Faux, the Army’s head of arts, who led the team behind this year’s three-week Army@TheVirtualFringe event.

She was so impressed that she arranged for the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra to create a new soundtrack for her rap.

Leila was invited to the barracks where Colour Sergeant Richard Kerr, Musician Brittany Johnnie and Corporal Scott MacFarlane of the Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland presented her with flowers and a copy of the music on behalf of the Army.

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The young rapper was taken along to the barracks by her father David. Leila, who hopes to be a writer, illustrator or musician when she’s older, said: “It’s been really wonderful doing this competition. This was all such a surprise. It’s amazing, I never thought all this would happen.”

The soundtrack was created by Lance Corporal Adrian Calef, the Principal Cellist of the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra, bringing together a variety of styles and instruments into what he described as an “epic orchestral hip hop sound”.

Lt Colonel Faux said: “Army@TheVirtualFringe has shone a light on many issues including racism and equality. We have also been trying to support young and emerging talent. So working with Leila has been a perfect way to round off the event.

“The contribution of people from Commonwealth nations in Africa and the Caribbean to the Army and to civilian life has been immense but is often overlooked, along with the discrimination so many of them experienced.

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“The fact that young people like Leila are determined to use their talents to demand a better world gives real hope for the future.

“We are really proud to have been able to bring her together with some superb professional musicians and create a recording of her rap and will be looking for ways to bring it to a wider audience.”

Leila’s teacher, Gary Balfour, said: “This is an amazing piece of work from Leila. Lots of young people from the school were entering the competition, creating artwork, writing poems, photography, speech writing, dance and performance art.

“Leila had learned about the Windrush story and wanted to do something about that, and after seeing Dave on the Brits she decided to create a rap. We worked together to set it to music but I always thought that we could do even more with it.

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“So when the Army offered to do a fully professional recording it was overwhelming. We decided to make it a bit of a surprise for her, as a welcome back to school after lockdown, and it was wonderful to see her face light up on the day.”

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