Around the world with Jain

The French singer on how her multicultural upbringing shaped her music in her second album, Souldier

Updated - November 28, 2021 09:03 am IST

Published - September 28, 2018 05:58 pm IST

There is an audible laugh from singer Jeanne Galice (or as she prefers it, Jain) when she’s asked about her lyrics on ‘Star’, off her second album Souldier , which released in August. Its stand-out lyrics include, “I don’t need no MBA to know music’s my DNA”.

Over the phone from Paris, just a few weeks before kicking off her US tour in October, Jain is bubbling with excitement and certainly has a lot of things figured out as a musician. Souldier was released by Columbia and Sony Music worldwide, and is feel-good, dance floor-friendly and avoids any accusations of cultural appropriation, considering Jain sings and borrows sonic influences from Middle Eastern (‘Abu Dhabi’), African and Caribbean music — all places she has lived in and journeyed to often.

On tracks like ‘Inspecta’, the hip-hop inspiration is evident, but they come from a singer who shot to fame with the Afro/electro pop runaway hit ‘Makeba’ in 2016. The song earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video and plenty of time on the song charts. She says, “I’ve been able to release two albums and that’s a great chance. I’m happy that I can make music and people are coming to my shows to see them. I’m really grateful.”

In an exclusive interview with Weekend , Jain talks about being a beat-maker, travelling the world and her India connection. Excerpts:

You studied tabla as early as at the age of nine when you were in Dubai. Where did that interest in music originally stem from?

Since I was a child, I was yearning to learn about percussion because that’s what I loved. When I was nine, I was passing by a drum class and saw them playing and I was moved. That’s why I started making music. For me to have the opportunity to learn the darbuka and the tabla in Dubai, it created my own thoughts for music. I started to write my songs when I was 15 and living in the Congo. I was listening to Arabic, Congolese and European music and I wanted to really mix up what I love and bring my own influences as well.

You’ve mentioned in interviews that you’ve been to India as well – what did you take back as a cultural influence?

In Dubai and in Abu Dhabi, there’s a big Indian community. When you’re in a taxi or bus, you always hear Indian music. When I was going to India, it was with my family on holiday. The music I heard there really moved me, because it had a particular rhythm that is only used in India and I don’t know any other country which has this kind of instrumentalisation.

Once you have a multi-cultural upbringing, do you think people automatically become more open-minded?

I don’t know if I would have done music if I hadn’t travelled a lot. Travelling around countries really gave me music and the different influences and to also create… I always write when I’m on the road, like on the tour bus, in vans and cars. Travelling inspires me a lot and it’s part of my music.

When you’re a beat-maker yourself and are working with another producer, what is it like in terms of mindspace?

Yeah, we work as a kind of duo. We discuss and give each other advice and we always find a solution to be happy about the song. I bring the music, the lyrics and the melody and he (Yodelice aka Maxim Nucci) helps me find good instrumentalisation.

When you’re 26 and put in so much of travelling and living – what, if anything, is exhausting about it?

Touring is really exciting and definitely exhausting as well, because you’re on the road all the time and far from family and friends. You feel a little bit lost but I have a good team. I toured for two years and did more than 200 shows, so it was exhausting but it was a good memory. When you’re a teenager, it’s always complicated. I had to move for three years to one country, two years in another country and then one year in another country. Then I did my graduation in Abu Dhabi, so for me it was a great opportunity to find my own music, but sometimes I was a little lost with my roots. I was French in other countries and it was kind of hard to decide for myself who I was. Music helped me find myself.

What else is coming up for Souldier? You know you have a bit of a following in India now, and some people are curious just from the name alone.

(Laughs). Yeah, actually I had a lot of comments asking, “When are you coming to India?” I would love to come back to India and make music too, because your music is so unique, it’ll always inspiring for musicians. We’re going to try to support this album with as many tours as we can. I would love to travel a lot with the album and I’m going to try to make new songs again. I never stop writing new songs and I’m going to keep going.

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