About Zara McFarlane
Rich-voiced vocalist, composer, and producer Zara McFarlane is a MOBO-winning artist whose progressive approach to jazz draws from soul, folk, and reggae. Crucial to Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings and U.K. jazz at large, her extensive work includes four varied and exploratory studio albums issued on a triennial basis: Until Tomorrow (2011), If You Knew Her (2014), Arise (2017), and Songs of an Unknown Tongue (2020).
Born to Jamaican parents in Dagenham, England, McFarlane grew up listening to reggae and R&B. At the age of 14, she made her first appearance on television when she performed a Lauryn Hill song on the program Stars in Their Eyes. She attended the BRIT School, the University of West London's Tech Music School, and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where she developed her love for jazz. Her first recordings were done with house act Bopstar. A six-track debut EP followed in 2010, but she didn't gain a significant amount of attention until BBC DJ Gilles Peterson signed her to Brownswood and released the album Until Tomorrow in October 2011. The refined contemporary jazz set earned her a MOBO (Music of Black Origin) nomination. Her follow-up, the more varied If You Knew Her, was released in January 2014 and led to a MOBO win in the category of Best Jazz Act. A deeper exploration of Afro-Caribbean sounds informed Arise, produced by Moses Boyd and issued in September of 2017.
By the end of the 2010s, McFarlane's collaborative work included additional recordings and performances with the likes of Denys Baptiste, Nicola Conte, Jazz Jamaica, Soweto Kinch, Orphy Robinson, and Louie Vega. She had also teamed up with Dennis Bovell on an update of Augustus Pablo's "East of the River Nile." The first year of the next decade began with "Black Treasure" and "Everything Is Connected," singles that led the way to Songs of an Unknown Tongue in July 2020. ~ Andy Kellman