Nishla Smith – The Beast
Nishla Smith songs, vocals
Charlotte Keeffe trumpet, flugel
Helena Kay sax, flute
Tom Harris piano
Misha Mullov-Abbado upright bass
Sarah Heneghan drums
Nishla is a singer and artist driven by a desire to tell stories. She works across disciplines, frequently collaborating with dancers and artists. Nishla is one-third of theatre collective Ulita, with whom she just finished a two-week run of her original stage show ‘What Happened to Agnes;’ at Edinburgh Fringe.
In 2021 Nishla released a debut album on Whirlwind Recordings. ‘Friends With Monsters’ received critical acclaim, with Downbeat USA saying– “While Smith’s singing is an entrancing beauty of its own, the true trump cards are her lyrics and melodies.” Alongside the creation of the music, she devised and directed three story-driven music videos to reflect the album’s nocturnal theme; and commissioned eleven pieces of original artwork from local artists– a piece in response to each song; before launching the album at Ronnie Scott’s.
Last year, Nishla played a bird in Atri Banerjee’s lauded production of ‘Kes’, for which she won a UK Theatre Award for ‘Best Supporting Performer.’ In summer 2022, she joined Serious Music’s prestigious Take Five programme, which culminated in a performance at the Southbank Centre for London Jazz Festival. Later in the year, she was awarded a development award through the Peter Whittingham Jazz Awards, to support her upcoming album.THE BEAST is an explosion of musical and narrative ideas, told through song and performed by a stunning combination of musicians, all of whom are exciting, boundary-pushing artists in their own rights. Born out of a songwriting hiatus, and imagined to mirror her complicated relationship with music-making, and threadbare mental health over the last eighteen months; this is Nishla’s return to the art of the song.
The music draws from her roots in the textures and musical language of jazz; but incorporates ideas from soul, pop and sound design. A piano-driven rhythmical through-line creates the bedrock for virtuosic improvisation and lush, layered textures. Nishla and her collaborators are currently making an album of this new music, with producer Chris Hyson (Snowpoet, Freida Touray) thanks to the generous support of Help Musicians.