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10 for ’20: Denise Chaila

Denise Chaila by Tara Thomas

In the latest installment of 10 for ’20, Kelly Doherty tips Limerick-based Zambian-Irish rapper and poet Denise Chaila for huge things in 2020 and beyond. Photo by Tara Thomas

Few Irish artists are swimming as smoothly in a wave of excitement and anticipation as Denise Chaila. The rapper and poet, despite having only two solo singles to her name, has been turning heads across live venues and major publications for the last couple of years. Winning herself a cover spot on the Irish Times’ 50 People To Watch in 2020, a celebrity fan in BBC Radio 6’s Cillian Murphy and about to undertake performances at Other Voices Ballina and St Patrick’s Festival, Chaila is becoming a major name in Irish music.

Chaila’s own words on Facebook provide an apt summary of her appeal. “Her music blends spoken word and rap to give voice to a transatlantic odyssey exploring identity, belonging, and home from the heart and mind of a diasporan dreamer”. Whilst last year’s Duel Citizenship EP was Chaila’s first solo statement of intent, she has already lent her politically poetic flows to Rusangano Family’s Choice Music Prizing winning album Let The Dead Bury The Dead and is a regular contributor to good time messers Sim Simma Soundsystem.

What sets Chaila aside from her peers is a deep sense of musical urgency. Far from riding the coat-tails of Irish hip-hop’s recent breakout moments, the Zambian born, Limerick-based rapper has forged a path that is entirely her own. Duel Citizenship, despite its brevity, posits Chaila as a decisively political artist, one who uses her platform to discuss gender, race and division through powerful story-telling and fresh productions that sound little like anything else being made by her peers. Combine that with her warm and personal live presence and Chaila is quickly emerging as an integral fixture in a genre that is all the better for having her. Kelly Doherty