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Who is Nubya Garcia?

An introduction to the London-based saxophonist, composer and DJ Nubya Garcia, who is making her BBC Proms debut this year at the Royal Albert Hall

Who is Nubya Garcia?

Nubya Garcia is a British saxophonist, composer, DJ and bandleader making waves in the young London jazz scene. This year, she is making her BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall. Her music draws on influences from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and is eclectic and has been remixed by several other DJs.

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Garcia’s debut album, SOURCE, was released in 2020 to widespread critical acclaim. It uses unconventional jazz rhythms deriving from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. It was nominated for a Mercury Prize in 2021. Over the course of the album, she sings about her ancestors in The Message Continues, the importance of female solidarity in Stand With Each Other and celebrates spiritual freedom in Boundless Beings. 

She also hosts a monthly radio show on NTS in which she showcases her varied tastes in music, with choices spanning soul, contemporary jazz, reggae and dub. Garcia is known for her wide range of musical influences.

In her NPR Tiny Desk live performance, she performs alongside one of her regular collaborators, keyboard player Joe Armon-Jones. Actor and rapper Riz Ahmed chose Garcia for his entry in British Vogue‘s list of twelve young creatives to look out for. 

Nubya Garcia was born in Camden Town in London and began learning the saxophone aged 10, exploring jazz from the age of 12. Growing up, Garcia was surrounded by her mother’s classical music collection and was encouraged to listen to a variety of music. She benefited from a musically nurturing family and a wide-ranging musical education that saw her progress from her local music centre and a stint on viola with the London Schools Symphony Orchestra to graduating from Trinity Laban, also taking in the Royal Academy of Music’s junior jazz programme (one of the best music colleges and conservatoires in the world), the Jazz Warriors, a scholarship for the Berklee summer programme and private study on the saxophone (she took the instrument up aged ten) with Jean Toussaint.

Her debut EP Nubya’s 5ive was released in 2017, with a second released the year after – in which she began experimenting with electronics and jazz. It encapsulates some of the soundworlds of the music Garcia absorbed while growing up in North London.

Garcia has collaborated with other artists in the thriving young London jazz scene, including the Ezra Collective, Blue Lab Beats, Sons of Kemet and Moses Boyd.

What style of music does Nubya Garcia play?

With a resolute yet rich and persuasive tenor sax tone and a lucid and emotionally expressive compositional style, her approach embraces both traditional performance and the possibilities given by technology, whether live or in the studio.

Her discography includes positions as leader, collaborator and guest, working with Makaya McCraven, Moses Boyd and Shabaka Hutchings among many others. Her own compositions and their remixes draw happily on everything from mellow soul to skittery drum’n’bass.

The pandemic brought constraints but allowed her to devote more time to writing. Her commitment to both live work and recording remains undiminished and she’s very much at ease in both environments: ‘I find the studio to be a really special place that lets you construct a whole different universe to that in which you’ve been playing and doing things previously. But of course it’s not really finished until we’re all in the studio, because a huge part of what I write involves improvisation.

How to listen to Nubya Garcia

You can buy Nubya Garcia’s debut album on CD and vinyl from the following outlets:

You can stream Nubya Garcia’s debut album on the following streaming platforms:

When is Nubya Garcia’s Prom?

Nubya Garcia is appearing at the BBC Proms on Wednesday 18 August at 7.30pm. Her concert will take place at the Royal Albert Hall and will be broadcast as part of this year’s BBC Proms coverage on BBC TV and iPlayer.

‘I know the Royal Albert Hall so well – I’ve been going there for longer than I haven’t, basically!’, she told Roger Thomas in the August 2021 issue of BBC Music Magazine. 

Her plan is to present a live performance of material from her acclaimed 2020 Concord album Source, her first album-length studio release as a leader. ‘I’m really excited to be bringing the energy of that album into that space, maybe invite some guests and to experience all of that with a Proms audience.’

Find out more about all the Proms which will be available on BBC TV this year.

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Read the full schedule for this year’s BBC Proms season here.