“Maria”, the fresh track from new voice of South London, JSCA, is an R&B/soul devotion to all-encompassing love, and an ode to Colombia. This track follows her debut “Carousel”, a neo-soul crooner with sunny congas and sweet soulful harmonies reminiscent of Charlotte Dos Santos, Fatima and Mahalia.
JSCA’s voice is strong and distinct on ‘María’, as she narrates an exaggerated story of her own experiences: “The song is about when you want to devote yourself to someone, you want to be everything for them but they might not be ready to receive that and may not return it in the same way: they may be struggling; they may have their own demons,” JSCA explains to BristoLatino.
The track is written by JSCA and produced by Giacomo de Castro, both contemporaries at BRIT School. De Castro developed JSCA’s ideas into a rich production with warm electronic chords and a range of samples and influences from Latin America.
The song’s devotional breakdown and soft Spanish-language ending are taken from Bullerengue singer, Orito Cantora’s song “Bullerengue para un Ángel”, written for the Colombian musician’s niece. JSCA connected with Orito on Instagram and the singer gave her blessing for JSCA to use her melody.
You also hear the distorted song of a father and child, in fact taken from a 1960s audio recording of an unidentified Colombian tribe. Its ambiguity perfectly fits JSCA’s idea for the song – it can be anyone’s story, and it’s an ode to Colombia’s culture and traditions. The track title, “María” – a common name – also reflects this. It represents the average woman – “There’s María like the Virgin María or it could be your neighbour, your auntie, your mum” JSCA explains.
The visuals hark back to noughties music videos, incorporating a range of bold looks and diverse scenes. “This was intentional”, JSCA tells me, “So that the video represented all of these different personalities and all the different people in ‘María’.” In one scene, JSCA’s white lacy dress, headscarf and long plaits flow in the wind, signalling her Colombian heritage. In another, she washes her hair in flowers and nods to her culture’s spirituality with an astrology book. In the vibrance of Richmond Park, JSCA wears a pink shirt that she’s styles herself, cutting the sleeves and adding statement jewellery and Nike kicks. My favourite scene is filmed in a lift, with shining jewellery and an old-school R&B feel. “I went through my whole wardrobe and tried everything on, I tried to be as creative as possible in lockdown and on a small budget. There were more looks that actually didn’t make the final cut!” she shares.
Motifs reveal themselves through vocal control, aesthetic expression and creative editing. In one scene, JSCA is tangled in dramatic red thread, with nails dipped in black, reflecting the themes of the song. “I’m all tangled up, constrained, and that’s how it can feel when you’re in a relationship that’s not doing what it’s supposed to be doing… Getting out of relationships can be hard”. She goes on to explain: “I have a thing for red string, I used to write poems about this red string of fate. It’s something from a myth or a fable, you follow this thread that’s been laid out for you… Everything happens for a reason.”
JSCA is the kind of artist with unbounding creativity and drive. Not only was the “María” video a one-woman job, but she’s finished two videos in just three months during lockdown, using her imagination to create a studio out of her South London council flat and a pop-star’s dressing room out of her wardrobe – with the help of London’s charity shops of course.
“Social media plays a big part in the visuals for my music and how I see projects”, JSCA tells me. “Pop culture inspires me, and just generally the people around me. And folk music from Colombia plays a big, big part. There’s no other music that makes me feel the way traditional music from Colombia makes me feel. Latin America and Colombian culture are the biggest influences for me.”
Rather than placing herself within a pre-existing genre in the UK, JSCA finds herself in movement: on a journey of discovery. “I’m still unidentified”, she attests, “I just want to make art. It will fit wherever people decide it fits. The UK Latin scene is growing still, there’s so much potential for it to grow and you can go through any root of Latin music – you can take reggaeton, salsa, bachata, there’s so much that is untapped potential.”
“I’m still unidentified”, she attests, “I just want to make art. It will fit wherever people decide it fits.”
“The thing with Latin artists is we have to be careful not to be put in a box, which would be limiting. They’ll hear Spanish and some kind of beat and think it’s reggaeton, you know, they don’t understand there’s more to it. It can be very limiting because there’s not many people in the UK doing it right now.”
We’re following JSCA on this exciting journey as she carves out her own artistic path. She’s set to release a full EP in September and hopes to get back to live gigging soon. For now, check out “Carousel” and “María” and follow JSCA on major streaming platforms.