A girl called GiHRL
When choosing her moniker, Shanique Brown faced an identity crisis. Her first choice was her birth name, Shanique, but people immediately assumed that her style would be similar to Denyque, known for her song Supergirl. She then switched to Dakota, but it was assumed that she was a reggae artiste, drawing comparisons to Etana.
“Not that I was insulted because they are great artistes,” she said. Tired of the constant comparisons and worried that she would be put in a box, she decided to keep it simple. “So I was, like, you know what? I’m a girl and I do music. My grandmother seh every woman is a girl at heart. The reason I decided on the name GiHRL was because when I just started out, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m just an artiste when I hit the stage,” GiHRL told The Sunday Gleaner.
The best way to describe GiHRL is as a triple threat – a multi-faceted entertainer who acts, sings, and dances, with a skill set that also includes songwriting and even directing.
The Stage and screen
GiHRL credits her performance chops to her primary and secondary-school careers. “I was predominantly from an acting background. Then one day, mi juss realise seh mi coulda sing. I was writing songs all along, and then I realised I could sing.” she joked.
Her theatre life began at Ardenne High School, and while there, the worked under the direction of Suzanne Beadle then Gracia Thompson. Long demonstrating an interest in a variety of expressions, she revealed that she was the first student to be a member of the music and drama clubs at the same time. “Ian Hird trained me to sing while acting,” she said, lauding the institution’s musical director with a puff of pride.
Such a background has afforded GiHRL cast credits in local musical theatre including Junkanoo Jamboree by the late Aston Cooke, short films, and other productions. “So a lot of what we did at Ardenne and even at Phillip Sherlock Centre when I went to UWI – that prepared me.” That preparation nabbed her a role on the local television show Mi and Mi Crew. “That one was really interesting. I got the call to play the role the same morning they were shooting it. I was in bed and I got the call – on the day, right as they’re about to shoot it. I think I was 19 when I did that role, and I was playing a 40-odd-year old.”
She recently wrapped shooting some short films, notably playing Ellie in Kurt Wright’s Origins, a short film being developed into a fantasy series. “We did a short film in St Kitts and Nevis a year ago, and I also did one for an American company looking at women from different parts of the world. So they did one from China, one from India, then they came here, and I was blessed enough to work with Tanya Hamilton.”
Hamilton, has worked with Kerry Washington, famous for her primetime television role in the hit show Scandal. “She’s well known. she directs for a lot of the shows and series that you watch. So I was really nervous.”
As she waits to see her work hit the small screen, GiHRL is currently more preoccupied with connecting with her listening audience. “For me, it’s about more than the hits and the superficial things. For me, it’s about the feeling. Don’t get me wrong. making it on Billboard charts means money. honey, we gotta eat. But there’s just a rush that I get from performing. The biggest payment is at the end of a show. someone comes up to me or messages me and says, ‘ that song really connected with me’. Dat ah di dopest feeling ever.”
On March 15, GiHRL released her latest single, Hard Feelings, material to satiate fans until the release of her debut EP. “ Hard Feelings is not on the EP - yet. It was produced by an upcoming producer called Mari The Producer. I think it’s one of the most relatable songs we’ve released to date. It speaks truth in a Jamaican ‘let’s break up’ kind of way,” she shared.
GiHRL is understandably about the details surrounding her EP since she announced its release last year. “I said ‘yeah, man! It soon drop!’ And then we had to fix a couple things. But this time, I’m pretty sure I can safely say summer. It will be seven or eight songs. Everything for the EP is, basically, ready. We have the name, the cover everything. Some of the video is shot already. But you know, you sharing out the food and you want to make it nice. you want the gravy on the rice grain dem, so that’s what we’re doing.”