by Sheena Antonios
VANCOUVER – French singer-songwriter, Jain, released her album Zanaka in November 2015. In 2017, she won Best Female Artist and Best Music Video for “Makeba” at Victoires de la Musique, an annual award ceremony in France and made her U.S. television debut performing “Come” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Through her music, Jain aims to inspire dancing and communicate her message of hope. She had been working on Zanaka since she was 16 and offers a vision as well as intention to accompany the album. “I always thought that music was about dancing and happiness, to forget the everyday life…and to give hope,” she says.
Jain grew up in France, the United Arab Emirates and the Democratic Republic of Congo before settling in Paris after graduation. It was during her multicultural upbringing that Jain was introduced to Arabic percussion and learned the Darbuka. She was living in the town of Pointe Noire in the Congo when she first uploaded her music to MySpace. This action would eventually lead her to French musician, Yodelice, who Jain credits, greatly helped her to develop her sound.” MySpace also connected Jain with her current agent and producer.
An early version of “Come” is still available on the artist’s MySpace page showing how her sound has evolved. Her work was principally acoustic until she returned to France at 18. Upon arrival in Paris she describes her introduction to the thriving electronic music scene. “When I was living outside of France I never listened to electro, I really only listened to African music and to soul and reggae and then I moved back to Paris, I discovered French electronic and I got really into it. I wanted to have some electro in my songs to make people dance.” “Makeba”, a song about civil rights activist Miriam Makeba, is a toe-tapping rhythm and tribute to “Mama Africa.” Coinciding with the social messages present in her work, the underlying theme is always to make people dance. Zanaka is heavily influenced by the music she heard and absorbed while living in the Congo and both the “Come” and “Makeba” videos are filmed in South Africa. In either video you may notice her signature black and white dress. She shares the significance of the repetition of this outfit; “I really wanted to have something that separates me from my everyday life. I wanted to create identification and for me it was this little black and white dress because it was the absolute contrast. It really contrasts with my music that is very colourful. It surprises people that they see me making big beats and electro sounds when I’m wearing the dress. It’s kind of weird and it’s kind of quirky and I like it.“
Speaking with Jain about her videos, the common themes within her album become clear. “’Makeba” and “Come” are both full of references to great artists. Jain explains, “’Come’ there are a lot of references to great painters like André Bouton and you can see a lot of influences in ‘Makeba.’ I like it when you discover things after watching again and again so that it is always new.”
The title of her album, Zanaka, meaning “child” in Malagasy is attributed to a connection to her mother who is Franco-Malagasy. But the title Zanaka also suggests introspection and a look to the future from Jain. It proposes that she believes she still has room for growth and that we can expect more from her. When asked about what the future holds her, innate optimism shines through as she quickly replies, ”I hope a lot of music – a lot of travels and a lot of happiness.”
Jain performs on March 27 at the Biltmore Cabaret.Biltmore Cabaret, Jain