Young Musician Stories: Zachariya Xian

Wed 9 June 2021
Xian at the Fast Forward Festival 2019

Zachariya Xian has been an active participant of MAC Makes Music since he first joined SWITCH, our inclusive band for young people with additional needs, in 2014. He took on the role as lead singer/rapper and contributed wholeheartedly to the songwriting process. Xian performed with SWITCH at various live events at Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham Symphony Hall and Victoria Square as well events in London.

In 2019 Xian left SWITCH and became a member of the National FLOW Collective, a programme set up by Bristol Music Trust that supports the professional development of disabled musicians across the UK. As part of the programme, we arranged regular mentoring sessions for Xian with rapper and producer Jimmy Davis. Xian’s ambition was to write, produce and launch an EP under his artist name Dragon X, which he achieved due his dedication, creativity, and his ability to listen and take on board the advice from his mentor, Jimmy.

“Jimmy understands the art of rap and he always makes notes in all of the sessions I attend, which is amazing. He gives me the best advice on journeys through music and offers words of wisdom which is good for me to take on board.”

The resulting EP is called Positive Vibes Only, which Xian says ‘suits the theme for the five tracks I recorded on the project’. Jimmy and Xian established and maintained a consistently professional approach to work which involved Xian writing lyrics and sending his beats to Jimmy outside of sessions, then meeting at MAC to record the vocals, making full use of their allotted time together.

The EP didn’t stop at recording. Xian also produced lots of ideas for the visual artwork alongside the music. He made a connection with artist Alfie Goodwin, with whom he liaised to design a logo. Dragon X’s brand was beginning to take shape.

Xian performing with SWITCH

Xian has always demonstrated a vast awareness of all different types of music, and a desire to listen and learn from the music that inspires him. In March 2019 we were able to give Xian the opportunity to see Drake in concert, as we knew that he would take this as another opportunity to learn and develop as an artist and a performer.

In October 2019, Midlands Arts Centre hosted the Fast Forward Festival and invited all members of the FLOW Collective to perform their debut song ‘Fear Never Fixes Anything’. Xian confidently introduced the group to the audience, taking the role of front man in his stride. The Fast Forward Festival celebrates inclusion and was an opportunity to discuss how we can challenge expectations around disability and the music industry. Xian had produced a pre-recorded vignette for the festival in which he expressed how music makes him feel more calm and positive, and by supporting him as an artist we can help break down the barriers that disabled musicians face.

“The Fast Forward Festival was a great opportunity to come together as a group and discuss what more needs to be done to improve access to music for young musicians with additional needs.”

The festival led to more opportunities that would help Xian’s professional development. In November 2019 he attended the BBC Introducing Live event where he networked with other musicians, met professional artists including Craig David, and attended a Spotify Masterclass that gave him a greater understanding of using the platform effectively as an upcoming artist.

By 2020 Dragon X’s debut single, Fight the Power, was ready to be taken to a professional studio to be recorded for release. Xian went to Zion Recording Studios where he met studio manager, Tony, who taught him about how the studio works and about the mixing and mastering process. To accompany his new single, he produced a music video, adding special effects to historical video footage as an expression, he says, ‘of the situation we’re in during lockdown’.

“I enjoyed showcasing my new music every month at the Open Mic, which helps me develop my confidence as an artist. Performing live was nerve-wracking but I kept my cool and gave it 100% and the audience participation was excellent. I really had a good time. watching other performances and seeing new talent, which interests me as an artist.”

Also during lockdown, Xian became a regular participant of the MAC Makes Music Virtual Open Mic and Variety Jam, where young musicians are invited to meet up online and share their performances live or pre-recorded. Every month since November 2020 Xian has shared a new track, demonstrating his prolific creativity and talent as a rapper and songwriter. He has also been consistently supportive to other members of the group, giving positive, constructive feedback and reminding every performer ‘you should be proud of yourselves’.

Participants at Variety Jam!

Most recently Xian has been liaising with a video production company, Stereo 27 Productions, to produce a lyric video for his new track Let the Good Times Roll. He continues to write music and perform at online events and is steadily making new connections with the wider world of professional music.

We are very grateful to NCIE for the opportunity be part of the FLOW Collective. The opportunity to trial this level of 1:1 support and investment has been invaluable. We’ve been able to very clearly see how much individual progression is possible with the right support in place. This is something we plan to continue and develop at MAC.