Thus far in her career, Nubya Garcia has followed her nose, using her own musical prowess to unite her various projects and fellow musicians in ways that feel bigger than herself, bigger than the music she plays. Whether that’s forming the female-led jazz septet Nérija, fronting the band Maisha, or leading her collaborators in her own compositions, Garcia demonstrates that you can make anything happen that you put your mind to, as long as you’ve got the right people by your side.
The latest incarnation of that is ‘Source’, her debut solo LP. Throughout, she weaves together strands of nu-jazz, dub, call and response and cumbia to create an album that feels expansive, reaching out tendrils of community and strength to far corners of the earth. While debuts can often feel tentative, Garcia is wonderfully self-assured on ‘Source’, and so she ought to be – her 2018 release ‘Nubya’s 5ive’ quickly sold out both its original vinyl run and a repressing. For those waiting patiently for Nubya’s next move, they’ll surely be more than pleased with ‘Source’.
Throughout the album, Garcia’s saxophone floats to the top of the mix, now a call to action as on ‘Stand With Each Other’, now a balm as on album opener ‘Pace’. That said, she’s also well aware of when hers is the voice best suited to the message, and when to stand back and let her fellow musicians take centre stage. The muted organ solo on ‘Together Is A Beautiful Place To Be’ is tender and evocative of that inner excitement that comes from being entirely in sync with the people around you; the call and response between vocalist Akenya, the bassline and Garcia’s saxophone on ‘Boundless Beings’ lets each line speak for itself while communicating a common goal.
This is the key to ‘Source’: the importance of creating space for individuality to exist within a collective movement. A track that exemplifies this is ‘Before Us in Demerara & Caura’. Featuring Nérija member Ms MAURICE, it’s one of the album’s bigger ensemble pieces. Ms MAURICE’s trumpet and Garcia’s saxophone perfectly complement each other to create a raucous cacophony that binds them together; it creates a real sense of a shared purpose that extends to those listening, those that came before and those to come.
Although written and recorded well before the world found itself in its current state, ‘Source’ feels like a welcome antidote to its troubles. It’s about building collective energy, sustaining the good fight for the long term, reaching out to those around you to find commonality within each other’s individualised self-expression. As the world begins to ease in and out of lockdown, ‘Source’ acts as a blueprint for how we can begin to find this “new normal” we’re all searching for.