Q&A: Brina, Jamaica Sings Robert Burns

Tell us about your Jamaica Sings collaboration and plans for 2017

My latest collaboration has been with Robert Burns… or at least his songs! It was an idea between myself and Scottish producer Kieran C Murray, and we decided to work with a host of Jamaican musicians and artistes, including Ken Boothe, Cherine Anderson, Roots Underground, Berri and Nickeishia Barnes, singing Burns’ songs, crossing over into traditional Scottish repertoire and adding a Jamaican vibe.

In 1786 Robert Burns had booked his ticket to Jamaica. Our idea is to give a taste of how his songs might have sounded if he had gone and settled there. It unites Scottish songs with Jamaican music and is one of the biggest musical cross cultural projects to happen between Jamaica and Scotland. I’m very excited about opening musical pathways between my two countries. One of my many musical plans for 2017 is the release of the album, Jamaica Sings Robert Burns.

To support this, in November 2016 we released my version of Ye Jacobites By Name, retitled Warmongerers By Name; the first single from the album. It is a reggae re-working of Burns’ anti-war song, written in 1791, and features for the first time in Jamaican reggae, the Scottish Bagpipes. On Burns Night, 25 January 2017, we followed up with a second release – The Slave’s Lament. It’s an emotive adaptation of Burns’ anti-slavery song from a Jamaican perspective, played and performed in the Nyabinghi musical style – featuring Addis Pablo playing the melodica, an instrument made famous in reggae music by Addis’ legendary father Augustus Pablo.

Which other performers/musicians have been your main influences?

Miriam Makeba, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

What inspires you when writing or singing?

During singing many things inspire me! For example, the fact that there’s a spiritual experience when an audience watches my performance, while I in return observe their emotions ebbing and flowing through their facial expressions. When I write, I’m inspired to bring across the best variations of my voice and my heart with the hope that at least one person will be inspired in return. But most of all the gift of life inspires me. 

Which bands or artists from the contemporary Trad music scene, in Scotland or elsewhere, do you rate most?

Angelique Kidjo.

Have you played TradFest before? Are there any other acts on the programme you’d recommend seeing?

It’s my first time playing TradFest and I’m personally looking forward to seeing as many performers as I can. 

What does Tradition mean to you?

To me tradition means Life. Life and all its beauteous moments lived and passed on to our children to recreate and refashion with love and truth.  

Jamaica Sings Robert Burns is on Thu 4 May, 8pm at the Voodoo Rooms

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