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Saxophonist Nubya Garcia on finding a musical community on the South Bank

The musician on how joining jazz collective Tomorrow’s Warriors, helped her forge a career

Written by
Chiara Wilkinson

When I was around 17, I’d wake up and cycle down to the South Bank almost every day with my saxophone on my back. I’d spend hours practising and hanging out with friends in the Southbank Centre until they told us to leave at 11pm. I built up an amazing musical family there with Tomorrow’s Warriors, a jazz organisation for increasing diversity in the arts. If I didn’t have them around me, that space could have felt very elite and white.

In the jazz world, when you practise loads and really get your shit together we call it ‘shedding’. Having a place that was free to use for practice was imperative to me growing as a musician. I was starting to ask myself if my playing was just a hobby or if it could be something more. I had a real switch in my focus and self-belief.

It’s where I saw my first ever gig, too. When I was 12, I saw seminal musicians Abdullah Ibrahim and Ornette Coleman at the Royal Festival Hall.

To be asked to play at the Southbank Centre now feels really special. This year, I ran the Summer Reunion festival and I got to invite new creatives to play. It was an amazing progression of the space for me. 

Nubya Garcia’s album ‘Source + We Move’ is out now.

Read more from this series:

Craig Charles on the London spot that shaped his radio career

Yusuf/Cat Stevens reminisces about the sweaty clubs and record shops of Oxford Street

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