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Review: Denise Chaila – Go Bravely

Review: Denise Chaila – Go Bravely


The most buzzed Irish artist of 2020, Denise Chaila released not a debut album but a debut mixtape today, that sets out the artist’s intent for herself and her music.

We’ve covered the background to this point for the Limerick artist, poet and thoughtful speaker extensively to date but by anyone’s standards, pandemic or not, it’s been a marquee year for Chaila.

Go Bravely is the culmination of a myriad of explosive live streams, guest verses, insightful and pensive discourse, a radio impacting single in ‘Chaila’, it’s all there.

The mixtape coalesce the Narolane Records’ core family of Denise, Murli and God Knows and all they have been bringing to the Irish music community this year, always inviting guests into their world, to share the opportunities and stages.

Across 11 tracks, supported by her two close friends, Denise’s words convey the intent and action of a performer who has learned to lean in to showing her true character.

There are references to mythical, superhero and warriors from to Star Wars, to role playing dragon masters to pharoahs to greek goddesses, peppered with distinctly Irish similes like the Ardnacrusha dam, spice boxes, céilís, and Centra.

This imagery of power is aspirational, for the author and the listener, an empowering and encouraging lift for the soul.

Go Bravely isn’t purely braggadocious. Chaila’s personal reflections borne of self-doubt and self-care are as important as those aspirational elements. Chaila while sharing a mellifluous previously hidden R&B singing talent on Go Bravely for the first time publicly, is still working things through in private.

She calls herself the “black James Bond” on the highlight ‘Anseo’, while ‘Pieces’ burns with anguish delicately about her life choices. A panic attack that leaves her flat on her back for three days ‘Can’t Stop Me Here’ results in Denise resolving to refuse to get in her own way.

It’s those facets of the artist that have made Chaila such a magnetising presence in Irish music for the past two years. It’s all laid out on the table here.

The mixtape format of Go Bravely allows a casualness to proceedings and a varied vocal production that suits the exploration of someone finding their own tone. Chaila’s words are fully formed and on ‘Down’, she “dances on the grave of dead traditions.”

Can we just have a moment for this line on ‘Down’ ?

“Come in my inbox again and I’ll chat to your girl and raise her standards badman.”

Denise may cut straight to the chase and you best get out the way, or preferably, join her on the journey. Go Bravely is the anthem and the mantra.

In sharing the album on Bandcamp, Chaila wrote these lovely contextual words for the release, worth resharing here.

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Hello my friend,

I write this while my hands tremble. I’m sitting with Murli and Munya, it’s dark outside, my heart is stuck in my throat and my emotions are sitting right beneath the surface of my skin. We have prayed and sang together, and I’m taking in this moment.

In a few days I’ll be twenty-seven, and I’m afraid of so much. I’m uncertain about almost everything. I’m not sure if I am where I ‘should be’. I’m definitely not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. But I offer this work, not because I believe I’m brave, but because I believe one day I will be and that’s enough for me to take these steps towards the future I want.

In this mixtape, I have placed all my hope. All the promises I have made to myself. All the ways I have refused to abandon myself. Here are the echoes of my parents’ voices, the books which read me, the people who send me 30 minute voice notes, every night I’ve cried instead of slept, and all of the doubt which consumed me.

They say healing is a journey, not a destination. And it’s different for us all. This is a pretty powerful moment in my journey. Thank you for sharing it with me in the middle of your own.

If tonight you feeling like you’re nurturing your dreams alone; I wish you the strength to make it from moment to moment. I wish you the strength to walk your path. Let go of regret. And dance with the sun in every footstep. Leave your mark in fire on the ground you leave behind you. And just go. Not without fear. Bravely.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy will come in the morning.


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