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Brina sings reggae in Swahili

Published:Tuesday | September 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Brina recording in studio.
Contributed Photos Brina

Mel Coke, Gleaner Writer

Jamaican singer Brina, whose debut album, Under One Sun, was released in 2012, has charted another direction with the music in her new four-track EP, Reggae Sauti Za Kiswahili.

Recorded entirely in Swahili, it is an extension of an aspect of Under The Sun, as one track, Lala Vizuri, had been partly translated into Swahili for that set. The translation is now complete, and it joins Heri Pahali, Skiza and Naimba Real Reggae Music on the EP.

Brina, who has travelled widely across Europe over the past four years, said all the vocals were recorded in London. There is a strong Jamaican connection still, as extensive production of the music for the EP was done here.

She said the translations were done by Kenyan radio DJ Njonbi Koikoi, as well as Kabula Jahantoure from Tanzania, who was in Israel at the time. However, the delivery was entirely up to Brina. She had to work on her diction.

Worth the effort

That required "a lot of concentration, repetition and practice." Technology helped immensely, as much of the interaction was done through Skype and Whatsapp voice notes.

It was worth the effort. "I decided to do it because the appeal of reggae in another language was enticing. It was a challenge, and I believed it would be important to bring across the message," Brina said. Swahili's widespread use was attractive, as was an early introduction when she did not even know the language she was hearing.

"Swahili was introduced to me when I was about nine or 10 years old, then as a 17- or 18-year-old through the music of Miriam Makeba. I did not realise at the time that what she was singing in was Swahili," Brina said.

She points out, though, that "I do not speak Swahili fluently, but I have been able to master singing in it". Part of that was that the Tanzanian who worked on the translation is also a singer. This allowed Brina to get the phrases to "fall in the right pockets".


However, Brina said, after performances, "people come up to me speaking in Swahili. I have to tell them I don't. They switch to English and say how good it is to see a Jamaican singing in the language and compliment me on my diction."

"They feel as if I am from Kenya or Tanzania."

Heri Pahaliis is described as "an invocation and chant sending up praise to the Almighty One", while Lala Vizuri is meant for the village to sing to young ones, promising to leave the light on and to protect every child." Brina first heard Skiza sung by Baha'is in Kingston, and Naimba Real Reggae Music is "real musical fusion, as it still retains some English expressions and phrases".

Currently, Brina says she is in dialogue with persons in Uganda and Kenya to do concerts in December. After that, she says, "it is my hope that come January, I will be in Jamaica ... . Reggae Month is a good time to be there. I am still looking to my home. I know I have to cut my teeth there."