Binker Golding is one half of the MOBO-winning jazz duo Binker and Moses. He grew up in Enfield, north London, and graduated from the BA Jazz degree at Middlesex University in 2007.
Even before I went to university I had made the decision that I wanted to be a jazz musician. I’d studied classical music formally and jazz independently, but jazz was what appealed to me the most. It was just the improvisatory nature of it, making music up on the spot and changing things every night depending on how I felt.
We didn’t see the MOBO coming at all, neither of us did. We went along to the awards pretty casual to get the free drinks, but there weren’t any! I didn’t think we were going to win at all because there were people who were better known and our music is maybe a bit more niche. When we won I didn’t mind about the free drinks anymore.
Since winning we’ve been offered a few festival gigs and the performance we did immediately afterwards sold out straight away after we won the MOBO. A few people have since got in touch wanting to manage us and things like that. We probably would have done our second album with our label anyway, but this definitely secured it. There are definitely positives to it and hopefully some lasting effects.
I went to Middlesex with the soul intent of studying jazz. I said to myself: ‘I have three years to do the degree and when I come out the other side I am going to be a professional jazz musician.’ That was my goal and I stuck to it.
I might have become a jazz musician without going to university, but then again I might not have. I certainly wouldn’t have been as good a musician. I couldn’t have learned what I did just turning up to jazz clubs and jam sessions. I learned so many things in the classrooms at Middlesex.
It was right up my alley in the sense that there was a good balance of both academic and practical content. Some teachers were geared towards the practical knowledge, playing instruments and communicating through music. Other teachers were more about what was on the paper and the analysis of music – the nitty gritty of how a piece of music is put together and what is going on inside a musician’s head.
I really liked the academic side, hearing what the academics had to say about the technical side. I was really big on the essays and the analysis. And we covered a lot of ground, from the beginning of jazz right up to the present day.
Do it. Life’s too short to regret those sort of things. If you think it’s right for you definitely do it.
From the outside university and higher education might look like a three or four year party, but if you’re studying a degree in music you have to be very disciplined. There is time for that, but you’re going to a university to hopefully come out in the top two percent of musicians in the country –otherwise it’s very difficult to get work.
You have got to focus and you have got to practice. As a musician there is always something to learn and improve on. Turning up at lectures is only half of it, you have to get your mind and body in shape to be a musician. Nobody is going to practice for you. They’re going to teach you but they’re not there to crack the whip on you.
So my advice would be do it, but stay focused.
I would say while at university the thing to act upon is actually getting out of university. Turn up to everything and do the work and the practice, but the important thing to remember is that you’re living in London. It’s a big place, there is a lot of music going on and a lot of people to meet. Get out at night, turn up at these jam sessions, meet people and exercise your mind and your playing.
The goal is to practice and to work so that ultimately people will be coming up to you and asking for your phone number because they want to perform with you.