Life for 24 year-old beat maker and singer songwriter Jain has been a rollercoaster ride since signing to Sony France in 2015. Having scored a No. 1 hit with her debut single Come and a top 10 album in her native France, her album Zanaka has just been released in the UK on Columbia Records.
Jain’s distinctive mix of hooky French pop and Congolese rhythms wowed audiences on her first foray to the UK this summer. Looping live sounds and samples she creates an incredible club atmosphere morphing each song into a dancefloor arms-in-the-air finale. Having spent a summer playing festivals throughout Europe and touring with her fellow countryman Christine & The Queens she’s established herself as a force to be reckoned with amongst her peers.
A carefree spirit and sense of adventure sits at Zanaka’s core, Imagine Santigold meets The Do and you’re halfway there. Zanaka means childhood in Malagasy, Jain’s mother’s native tongue and is a telling title for the album. The songs form a diary that documents the singer’s life from 16 to 23 when she spent her formative years in the Congo and Dubai. Some influences date back further – to the Manu Chao, Youssou N’Dour and Miriam Makeba records her French father and half-Madagascan mother played at home.
An early love of percussion whilst living in Dubai led to discovering the darbuka, a traditional Arabic drum. Aged 14, her father’s job took the family to the Republic of Congo. “It’s strange when you move to different countries, particularly when you’re young,” says Jain. “You’re struck by all these new sounds. I was fascinated by the different rhythms in the music. In Congo, it’s not binary, but three time.”
Living in the Congo city of Pointe-Noire, she met a producer known as Mr Flash who taught her how to programme. “He gave me software so I could record myself and I started writing songs. Sitting alone in my room making music was the only place I felt truly at home. The songs became my house, and they moved with me.”
Every track on Zanaka captures a chapter in Jain’s youth. Come – written when Jain was 16 – a No.1 in France, gold in Poland, Top 10 in Belgium and a hit in Italy and Germany, has become her signature song. The dreamy, lilting HOB (think early Lily Allen with a great groove) was written in Abu Dhabi; the clubby Hope when she arrived in Paris and fell for electro and Kendrick Lamar. The tropical hip hop genius of Mr Johnson inspired by seeing suits trudging to work in an overcast Paris and imagining the artist inside them that sunnier climes might coax out.
Heads Up is a percussion-driven, arms-aloft party starter that piles on sounds and strips them down at a furious, fiesta pace. “It’s one of a couple of political songs on the album” Jain explains “written to give people hope in these strange, scary times we live in, particularly in France. We need to celebrate the clash of cultures in our country.”
As endearingly innocent as they are riotously rule-breaking, Jain’s tales of travel and adolescence are the sound of the summer, wherever you reside.
Jain returns to the UK for a show at The Garage on December 5th.
Zanaka track listing:
2) Heads Up
3) Mr Johnson
4) Lil Mama
6) All My Days
9) You Can Blame Me
10) So Peaceful