Spanish singer Nalaya is on fire at Q's Dubai
Former The Voice Spain contestant current Palazzo Versace club resident
LIFE HAS BEEN a variety of experiences for Q's Bar and Lounge's latest resident act, Nalaya Brown. Hailing from the largest Spanish Canary Island Tenerife, growing up surrounded by Cuban music (a mainstay resulting from her family's ancestry) and receiving a jazz education in the musical epicentres of Madrid and New York - the artist has also enjoyed stints living in Brazil before we even get to mention a career about-turn foray into electronic dance music, which took her to Ibiza and led to competing on La Voz (Spain's version of The Voice). With such a confluence of influences it is no wonder Nalaya is a perfect fit for the vibrant, multicultural UAE music scene. Her ability to seamlessly weave between traditional jazz, to more mainstream covers, before ramping up proceedings with some Latin flair, five times a week, is a must-see live performance. As the artist says: "When I am performing you can visit Brazil, Cuba and New York in one night."
We met Nalaya at the venue's home, the Palazzo Versace Dubai, a week into her residency which continues until January 25. Acclimatising to her new schedule, Nayala admits she hasn't much time to explore the city with only a trip to The Dubai Mall so far under her belt.
"I got lost when I first got there!" she said about a brief visit. "I went just to buy some beauty products and I ended up with bags of shopping. I guess that is Dubai."
Nalaya went on to say that with her new opulent surroundings and the fact she is able to solely focus on her art, the singer 'feels like a princess.'
"The same feeling I had in New York, I have here in Dubai. You come inside here (Palazzo Versace) and it is beautiful. Where I sing is a real jazz club. It is not a movie set. It is the best."
It is perhaps a far cry from more unassuming beginnings back in Tenerife. Born into a family of keen musicians, Nalaya knew at the age of 10 she wanted to be a jazz singer.
"My dad was dubious, but I ended up getting a scholarship to go to Madrid and studied there for three years. I was singing in jazz clubs for free and working in a pharmacy to get by. I found dance music while there and I started to earn some money. I saved all my money and went to New York."
Four years further jazz study in The Big Apple followed before fame came calling - although not in the genre to which Nalaya had so far dedicated much of her life perfecting.
"A DJ called me to do a song with him. From there I went round the world and have got to perform in Ibiza for 12,000 people every Friday for ten years... electronic music changed my life."
Consistent summer seasons in Ibiza were and continue to be plentiful, garnering Nalaya much exposure to the point she was already famous when she applied to be on Spain's 2015 series of The Voice - an experience she enjoyed though felt the contest favoured traditional flamenco musicians. Concerts alongside the likes of Akon and Ricky Martin became de rigueur, though a career highlight remains appearing with Lady Gaga in Rome.
"It seemed like there were a million people. She is amazing," Nalaya said. "She liked what I did. I had a conversation about jazz music with her because she had done a jazz album with Tony Bennett. I love singers who are also composers."
It was during a recent period flying between Ibiza and Croatia for shows when the opportunity to head at to Dubai arose.
"A Cuban producer got in touch with me and he had worked with Quincy Jones. I gave them my album and one month later Quincy Jones' production team got in touch with me an offered me Q's. I was amazed. I needed it for my soul. I wanted to work with good musicians. It was perfect."
Which brings us to the present day and Nalaya has hit the ground in the UAE running.
"The first set of the night, it's instrumental. It's Brazilian jazz music. It's chilled because everyone is eating dinner. I begin during the last song of the first set with perhaps some Stevie Wonder or Whitney Houston. We change that every night. Then it goes into more Latin and jazz arrangement songs throughout the night. It constantly changes, but it's always good.
"I want people who live here to come and enjoy real music. I love the Arab region. I think people here really understand music. I have come to say who I am. I'm not an American singer. If they wanted that they would call one. I offer something different."
Nalaya's thoughts on social media's industry influence
"I love it. I need it in my life. It has changed everything. Many talents around the world may never be discovered because they don't have enough followers, so it is very important to get them these days."