Nishla is a singer and writer driven by a desire to tell stories. Her unique musical sensibility, along with this preoccupation with narrative, is recurrent throughout her diverse array of musical projects.
In 2020, Nishla toured her first staged work, ‘What Happened to Agnes’, created in collaboration with visual artist Luca Shaw and jazz pianist Tom Harris. ‘Agnes’ was co-produced by Opera North through their Resonance scheme, and toured nationally with support from Arts Council England.
Her striking album/ art book/ video performance concept ‘Friends With Monsters’ combines the whimsical, the poignant and the slightly sinister – 4* BBC Music Magazine
Following ‘Agnes’, Nishla and her collaborators formed Ulita – a cross-disciplinary arts collective focused on creating music-driven theatre. She was recently awarded a ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ grant to begin work with the Ulita team on a second, more ambitious show. ‘Sister’ is currently in an R&D phase, and has been selected as part of Mercury Musical Developments’ BEAM, a showcase for new British musical theatre.
Outside of her work with Ulita, Nishla heads up an original jazz band, the Nishla Smith Quintet. Following a residency at Sage Gateshead, the quintet joined Jazz North’s Northern Line artist roster. Their recent performances have included Manchester and Lancaster Jazz Festivals, NQ Jazz, and The Vortex, and they are set to release a debut album in 2021.
Over the course of the 2017/18 season, Nishla produced and performed a major commission for Manchester Collective — ‘Cabaret’ received a national tour, was performed live on BBC3 In Tune, and featured at Home MCR’s PUSH festival. She rejoined the Collective last summer as part of the Cubit Sessions, a collaboration with Kings Place, London. Last year also saw the release of her debut single and video, Blue Dream– described by Staccatofy as “Stunning. A sheer delight.”