The Scotsman Sessions #330: iBrina with Nathan Somevi

Welcome to the Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts sector still impacted by the pandemic, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, singer iBrina performs her single Be Ready with guitarist Nathan Somevi

Jamaican-born, Scotland-based singer Subrina Ward, performing as iBrina, has worked with the great and the good of her homeland, including recording her 2012 debut album Under One Sun with guest appearances from reggae titan Toots Hibbert and legendary drummer Sly Dunbar.

Since relocating to Scotland in 2010, she has taken fresh musical inspiration from singers such as Karen Matheson, Eddi Reader, Paulo Nutini and Emeli Sande.

“I’ve been lucky enough to spend a bit of time in the Scottish trad and folk scene and have met some truly wonderful performers, singers and players who I hope to work with in the near future,” she says.

iBrina with Nathan Somevi

For her Scotsman Session, she has drafted in ace young jazz guitarist Nathan Somevi, who accompanies her in her nattily decorated living room. “I’m proud of my little set design and ability ‘fi tun mi hand and mek fashan’. Nathan handled the lovely audio mix and digital editing for which I want to ‘jus big him up’,” she says.

Together, they perform a natural, flowing rendition of her new single, Be Ready. “It has been a mantra for me,” she says. “I wrote this song at a time when there were plenty of changes happening in my life all at the same time. I decided on a simple personal affirmation to respond positively to the myriad shape of life’s teachings.”

Ward grew up singing in the Jamaican church, later formalising her musical skills when she moved to Kingston to study voice and music at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Her own music encompasses reggae, rock, soul, dub, Afro-Latin influences and elements of nyabinghi used in Rastafarian religious rites. She released a Swahili language EP Reggae Sauti Za Kiswahili in 2014, which has led to several invitations to perform in Tanzania. Closer to her current home, she performed at Celtic Connections as well as a number of European festivals prior to the pandemic.

“I felt lockdown was a particularly slow and difficult time,” she says. “The lack of opportunities to perform live and to travel were hugely disruptive for myself and many other independent artists but also very sobering. I wanted to hit the ground running with new releases coming out of the lockdown and I felt Be Ready was the one to start with.”

Ward also has a new EP in the works and plans for musical collaborations linking Jamaica, Scotland and Africa. She already has form in that regard, having released Warmongerers By Name, a reggae re-working of Robert Burns’ Ye Jacobites by Name, as well as her own rendition of The Slave’s Lament for the Jamaica Sings Burns project with accompanying videos filmed in the Scottish countryside.

“From the moment I set foot on this land I knew I was in a beautiful place for creativity,” says Ward. “I look to the natural environment and topography for inspiration, sitting with flowing water does miraculous things to me!”

Be Ready is out now and available to buy from https://ibrinamusic.bandcamp.com