The first – and most unfortunate conclusion – that anyone could come to regarding the vocalist Nana Rashid is that she sounds like “this vocalist or that”. In fact, she has so mature and completely-formed a vocal style that she sounds like absolutely no one, but herself. Her music is dark – so dark – that, in fact you might feel as if, by listening to her performance on Music for Betty, you are sharing what must be her profound “dark night of the soul”.
It’s like traversing a vivid combination of Juan de la Cruz’s own moment of truth of the same name The Dark Night of the Soul and Franz Schubert’s iconic song-cycle, Winterreise. Thus, the title of the disc – Song for Betty – doesn’t really stand up to the intensity of the emotions contained in the songs on the album – unless, of course, Betty is a metaphor for her character, [or someone like her] who is in the throes of longsuffering.
Dark music, based on dark themes – such as on this album is exemplified by songs such as Poor Blue Betty, of Goodbye my Love, or No Moon at All absolutely do not mean hopelessness. But when sung by evoking elemental sadness such as Miss Rashid does on this album, she proves that she is an artist of the highest order, who can ascend the rarefied realm of her art, but digging deep into the very depth of her being to emote with absolute truth and honesty. Miss Rashid knows where she come from emotionally. It is a place where we all seem to come from – in pieces, aching and scattered, and which can only be put back together by unscrambling the roots of our existential sadness.
Hope is hard to come by in her work, but come hope is the dialectic herb music thrives on – such as in Sorrow in Sunlight where her lyric strives to be antithetical to, for instance, to the legendary American poet Sylvia Plath, or the glorious Argentinean poet Alejandra Pizarnik – both of whom ended their own lives at a tragically young age. Miss Rashid then is a poet of sadness – even tragedy – but her tragic circumstances [like those that afflict all of humanity] are full of hope. Her “hope” is – to paraphrase a musical invention – ensconced in in emotional counterpoint.
The inimitable Polish poet Tadeusz Różewicz began his poem Draft of a Contemporary Love Poem  with the immortal lines: “For surely whiteness/is best describes through greyness/bird through stone/sunflowers/in December…” and ended it with the immortal lines “…Hunger deprivation/absence of flesh/is the description of flesh/the contemporary love poem.” This kind of lyricism seems to me an uncanny parallel for Miss Rashid’s gutsy song writing, her art which delves into the rawness of emotion, and yet was an elegant songful idiom.
Miss Rashid’s music takes you to another world which is, mysteriously, just like the one we all inhabit at sometime or other from day to day. It is full of glinting lights, mysterious depths, expectations, frustrations, hopes and doubts, like the shattered shadows of a sinister, album-length quasi-Mendelssohnian scherzo, glimpsed by moonlight in a forest. In the sheer depth of its characterisation and the exceptional range and refinement of her artistry Miss Raashid imparts a power and tragic stature to this music. Besotted by her vision and artistry, the celebrated Little North Trio comprising pianist Benjamin Nørholm Jacobsen, contrabassist Martin Brunbjerg Rasmussen and drummer Lasse Jacobsen show that they are fully attuned to her vision. This makes for an extraordinary and powerfully evocative recording.
Music – 1: Poor Blue Betty; 2: Goodbye My Love; 3: Johnny Guitar; 4: Mother, Father; 5: No Moon at All; 6: Pearls; 7: They Call it Love; 8: Some Other Way.
Musicians – Nana Rashid: vocals; Benjamin Nørholm Jacobsen: piano; Martin Brunbjerg Rasmussen: contrabass; Lasse Jacobsen: drums.
Released – 2023
Label – April Records [APR 105 CD]
Runtime – 35:03