The iridescence of R&B artist BINA.
Updated: 4 days ago
BINA. is an absolute poet. A South London R&B singer-songwriter and producer, she has made a reputation for the nuance in her songs, writing in abstraction and parable with lines like ‘sleeping with dogs / catching naps and their fleas’. Add to this that she is a one-woman studio, who recorded and mixed the entirety of her debut EP Humble Abode from her bedroom, and freestyles while recording many of her songs. Add too BINA.’s powerful presence for live performances, accentuated by her skills on guitar, and we have a maker of future classics.
BINA.’s home was always in different places growing up. Speaking with her on her relationship with music growing up, she shared, ‘I grew up in and out of foster care - but music has always been a constant for me’. When living with her parents, her dad used to record music of his own at home, as well as make CD mixes for her mum to play in the car. He also used to teach BINA. tricks with visual art, drawing specifically – you can see this visual eye with the choices she makes on the creative direction of her videos, especially in self-directed video for ‘Boundaries’ and in the Joyal Antony Domini directed ‘Caged Bird’. There’s a natural artistry here. This is one of the songs that shines high off her EP, a collab with rapper Kish! – adored by the likes of music heads such as DJ Oblig. BINA. and Kish! have a natural synchronicity, BINA.’s lyricism suiting the intimacy of his bars. He’s on her EP twice, with a verse in the remix for ‘Summer Breeze (remix)’ too.
You can hear her Jazz influence with her use of improvisation, and melodious scatting that can run you around a corner:
My mum loves Erykah Badu, Amy Winehouse and Kenny G (a saxophonist), so that was the kind of music she would play consistently in the car. I remember, Baduizm got RINSED throughout my childhood! She also loves house and garage (KISS FM was her go-to radio station at home). So I’d been raised on an eclectic mix of Neo-Soul and Jazz-adjacent music, but it was when I was about 16 I really got into Jazz. I started listening to more of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, because I wanted to study those whom inspired the people who inspire me.
Often economic with her lyrics in her songs, she has a minimalism that brings emotions to the forefront. The narrative journeys of her songs too have an alternative angle, shifting out of first and third person with a fluidity that takes listeners on many U-turns. For example, in 'Prisoner', on the claustrophobia of mental health, she sings: ‘BINA. keeps on listening to the people who keep sleeptalking / sleepwalking and sleeping on me’. This unique style seems a fusion of all of her different influences: ‘I’m of Nigerian heritage, but pretty much all of the foster families I’ve lived with have been Jamaican, so I was exposed to different musical cultures too. Also, being from South London, it’s so rich in culture.’ She also used to go on afternoon trips to the library at 15 because they ‘had everything’ and she worked there, which is where she discovered Ravyn Lenae and SZA. Doing theatre she came across artists like Smino, The Internet and Hiatus Kaiyote.
In latest release ‘Dark Cloud’ (with beautiful Neo-Soul production from thxnkq), she reflects on the hard times that we still need to work through while at the same time keeping certain people in our lives: ‘live out a duffle bag in the back of an Uber, don’t have time for anybody else but you’. Her music acts like timestamps, remembering for her: ‘Music seems to soundtrack significant chapters in my life. Some music will always remind me of lockdown every time I listen. Other music brings me to nostalgia for my childhood, or parties I’ve been to, or people I’ve met.’ I think this is what I enjoy the most about her storytelling through music – how much attention she pays to bringing listeners right to a particular moment. We’re there with her, on late trains and in indigo aura rooms.