In the late 1980s, in a recorded interview with the Jamaica Observer, Delores ‘Cherry’ Prince, mother of dancehall/reggae artist Tenor Saw speaks of her son, his career and his untimely death in 1988. At the time, Saw was touring and spending months away from his home in Jamaica while on the road. Of her son, she explains that she doesn’t understand why he could never come home and his explanations could never satisfy her.
British music artist and producer, Haich Ber Na makes use of this radio interview of Saw’s mother in his latest offering: “Nowhere Like It”. “I’m half Jamaican so there’s always a few subtle Jamaican references in my music” Ber Na explains. “…I just thought it was super fitting for the songs theme”. It is. “Nowhere Like It” is a 3-minute-long track, set up like a conversation between two lovers. “It’s a song from two perspectives” says Ber Na. “One being a person wanting to explore and find their home and the other, someone trying to get that person to stay where they are”. The dynamics of a relationship being pulled in two different directions is a vulnerable point, which Ber Na is able to put his finger on in a way that feels honest. “Sometimes you frighten me/with all your silly dreams/why don’t you stay with me” sings Ber Na, over the heavy synth instrumentals.
Soundsystem’s across the world are blasting hip hop and trap into the 4 walls of nightclubs. The club Haich Ber Na’s music would be playing in would be a little different, at least according to some of his listeners. “Some people have described it as ‘introverted club music’” he says. “I don’t completely agree, but I guess it’s quite fitting for now”. That description might not fit for Ber Na’s entire discography, but the visual of two lovers grappling with their relationship seems oddly fitting for the nightlife.
While the music itself might be for the introverted club goer, the video is for young cinephiles. Inspired by 70’s German cinema, Vietnamese ‘Aerospace’ furniture designer Quasar Khanh and Spanish architect José Miguel de Prada Poole, Ber Na became interested to create visuals. The video for his last single, “Conversations”, saw Ber Na become heavily involved in organizing and making treatments for the whole shoot. This kind of commitment to detail is evident in this new project as well. The video for “Nowhere Like It”, which Ber Na describes as “Stanley Kubrick-esq” is set in a minimalist apartment, big windows, concrete walls. The video follows a couple: Ber Na and his female counterpart, Emi. In it, Ber Na represents the introvert. “Out of love, my character tries to keep her in the house and away from the outside” Ber Na explains. In the video, Emi grows tired of feeling trapped, and plots to kill him so she can be free. Throughout the video, one gets the sense that at different points both of these characters are the aggressor, as they move through each room in pursuit and denial of each other. This is intentional. “I like the idea that you can’t really tell who’s the bad guy and who’s the good guy throughout the film,” Ber Na explains.
The tension between staying and leaving appear most strongly in this video through the moments that connect violence to love. In the final frame, Emi holds a rifle to Ber Na’s neck while he holds roses out to her. The scene seems to illustrate the complexities of a relationship. In Ber Na’s video, the male character isn’t 100% the bad guy, nor is he all the way good. There is a possessiveness that is interpreted as love at some points, while becoming overbearing at others, much like real relationships. For Ber Na, this scene is the partner showing his love in a fashion meant to ‘win her back’ or apologize. “But by this point in the film, the girl has made her decision,” Ber Na explains. “So, we can assume he makes this type of apology often. I thought it was cool having a couple who at one point were so obviously happy together but are now holding such opposite items, making such opposite gestures towards each other.”
True to art-house cinema form, the video and the song end on a quieter, more sombre note. With a range of influences that spans the distance from the 1980s Caribbean to 1960s-era Hanoi: the type of visuals and sounds coming next feel unpredictable. Ber Na’s next body of work is set to release in October.