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Meet the Trinidadian singer who's next up

ROYALTY: Nailah Blackman’s heritage has laid the foundations for her own career as an emerging musician

FEBRUARY – IT is a time of love, laughter and music! As I embark on my annual pilgrimage to Jamaica to celebrate ‘reggae month’, we thought we would skip across to the twin isles of Trinidad & Tobago in the midst of their carnival season to catch up on what’s going on... and there is a lot happening!

As anyone who has been to Trini Carnival will have witnessed, they know how to party. It’s not unusual to have up to ten major events a night with stellar line ups, incredible production and loads and loads of soca loving fans.

However the vibe is different this year. A new plethora of young, talented artists are making massive waves and are creating a buzz which is really catching fire across the region and further afield. One of the leading lights in this movement (which has been nicknamed Generation Next) is Nailah Blackman.

A modest, unassuming young lady whose quiet demeanour is in stark contrast to the sleek and polished on-stage persona she puts forward. Nailah comes from musical royalty stock. Her grandfather is Ras Shorty I, the man who invented soca as a means to bring the East Indian and African communities together by fusing the two main rhythmic structures to create the blend.

Her heritage is unquestionable, as all of her family are involved in music and the creative processes in different forms. Put simply, she was born to do this. “I always knew that music would be what I did,” she said, ahead of a night of four gigs across the island. “Since I was young I would always be strumming a guitar, and writing songs, so I know this is for me.”


VISIONARY: Ras Shorty I

Her star is on the rise, and with good reason. With over 20 million views from her handful of videos online and a booking request list which is as long as your arm, it’s very easy for all this success to go to the 20-year-old’s head – however nothing could be further from the case.

“My family are very spiritual, and I have a strong team around me that look after my interests”, she says. That allows me to be me and do what I need to do.” They certainly all work well in tandem. Part of the team is producer and co-manager Anson, who created the forthcoming EP alongside Nailah, and Lorraine O Connor, who has been a leading executive in Caribbean music for many years working alongside Machel Montano and Calypso Rose.

The quality of their output is very high, and that is something that is obviously important to the camp. “We do the best we can both with the tracks and with the visuals. I like to be part of the creative process and realise my visions with the videos,” Nailah added.

Her current tracks in the market place include ‘Sokah’, ‘Oh Lawd Oye’ and ‘Baddish’, the latter featuring Shenseea, who Nailah said is coming to Trinidad for her first carnival. “It will be good to hang out and also to perform together – I’m looking forward to it,” she added.

Whilst in Trinidad it is hard not to be aware of the impact that Nailah is having – from 40 foot billboards of her latest endorsement, to relentless rotation on the radio of her tracks and a punishing live schedule, this is a young lady on the up.


Nailah Blackman - O' Lawd Oye

“We put ‘Baila Mami’ out after carnival last year, with the view to show that the music can last past the season, and it seems to have done the trick. We are confident in our music and don’t see it having just a life span of the carnival months,” she said.

As with many young artists who come from a strong musical lineage, this can weigh heavy on their shoulders, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem for Nailah. She said: “I’m incredibly proud of what my grandfather did, and how he did it. He created something so special, and it has global significance.

“He was a visionary and I wear his legacy with pride and never see it as a burden at all.” Throughout our chat her producer Anson’s phone does not stop ringing – calls from London, New York, Canada – all trying to line Nailah up for performances. However she is super switched on, adding: “Everything will come at the right time – we aren’t rushing.

“Our growth has been organic to this point, and we like the way it feels. I put on my first major event last December to mark my 20th birthday. It was at an incredible location on the south of the island, which had additional significance for me because it is where my grandfather created the genre.

“We had an amazing line up, and just looking out at the view, with the stars in the sky and sharing that moment with so many people including my family was a magical moment.”

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