Whilst it’s fair to say Sabrina Francis is currently little known in the UK, the 28-year-old Afro-Caribbean pop singer-songwriter is already a star in her native Granada, where she learnt her craft by singing and storytelling with her humble musical family, before going on to entertaining a paying public. Francis’ talent was formally recognised in 2019, when she won the prestigious John Lennon Song Writing Award in New York for her single, I Feel.
Timed to coincide with the launch of her new single Call Me, her latest London appearance was a beautifully crafted performance that was empowering and, at times, incredibly uplifting. Arriving on stage beaming, barefoot, and wearing a sunshine-yellow satin dress, the joyous island girl may be small in stature but still big enough to fill one of London’s best-loved independent venues. Opening the show with the restrained soul-pop of I Feel Amazing, she followed up with her recent YouTube hit Cocoa Tea (announced as ‘an introduction to Sabrina Francis’) a nostalgic, summery recollection of her childhood and memories of mum making the traditional beverage before dinner. Afro-beats and soaring synths lit up the room as Francis and her audience danced in an almost hypnotic synchronisation.
Francis writes a lot about female independence, mental health and, especially, lurvee…themes addressed in her first ‘positive’ love song No Way (musically reminiscent of Lionel Richie’s All Night Long), which was promptly followed by Insane, a Soca-like number with backing vocals momentarily reminiscent of The Wailers, and Learn to Love – the incredibly playful hit dusted with spine-tingling snares.
Reaching the set’s mid-point, Sabrina slowed down the pace, vulnerably sharing with the audience her struggles with anxiety – inspiring the next song Break. This heartfelt piano-led ballad, with an intro reminiscent of The Fray’s How To Save A Life, was powerful enough to bring tears to the eyes of some. You could have heard a pin-drop when she ended on an impossibly high note revealing flawless tone and vocal control. The slower, reflective mood continued with Karma Won’t Forgive Us (admitting she wrote it on shift during her days as a hotel receptionist) and Woman. Then the clouds parted, and the sun came out again as the diminutive singer performed her debut single Call Me – a tropical pop love song with an infectious maraca rhythm, lilting acoustic guitar solo, and even a bit of whistling.
The show ended on a high with the anthemic This Is Home – a love letter to Grenada – officially used to re-launch the island’s recent tourism campaign. Judging from the crowd’s response it was the song most had been waiting to hear. Suddenly the Grenadian flags came out and sense of collective belonging took over as everyone sang along.
Although contemplative by nature, Sabrina Francis makes music that adventurous and playful, whilst remaining true to her Caribbean routes. All hail the real Spice girl!
I Feel Amazing
Learn to Love
Karma Won’t Forgive Us
Back To Me
Make Your Move
This Is Home
Writer and professional flautist Grace Twomey (MMus) performs regularly at gigs in South London where she’s based. All her areas of expertise include classical, pop, indie, latin and folk music.