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Friday, 2 September 2011

Friday's French music break - Imany, "You will never know"

Friday's French music break this week is from a woman with the most extraordinary voice.

Love it or hate it, "You will never know" by Imany cannot leave you indifferent.

Imany (screenshot from interview on France 2 television)

It's the first single taken from her debut album "The shape of a broken heart" and would, on the face of it, appear to be the French music scene's discovery of the summer as far as the media here is concerned.

Much has been written about her over the past couple of months and she has made multiple appearances on both television and radio.

But musical success has come neither easily nor quickly for the 30-year-old, who said in a recent interview that it was, "A dream come true" but one which "had taken some time to fulfil."

That's mainly down to her having spent seven years based in New York as a model, a career she didn't exactly plan but "fell into".

Born in France, Nadia Mladjao (her real name) is of Comorian origin and one of 10 children and although she had always wanted to be a singer she also had some hang-ups about her voice.

"That's what I wanted to do when I was seven, but I also thought that it was something other people did and not me," she said.

"In addition I was a bit self-conscious about my voice because when I was small nobody told me that I had a good voice, rather they said it was a 'big' one and I didn't think singing was for me."

Any thoughts of pursuing her childhood dream were put on the back burner when Nadia was "discovered" in the Paris metro and there followed seven years modelling in what she described as an "average career complete with its highs and lows" and during which, when she didn't have work, she continued to write.

"Nadia" became "Imany" ("faith" in Swahili) - a name she plumped for without knowing its meaning because, "At the time there were plenty of girls who worked for the agency who were called 'Nadia' and I didn't want to be 'Nadia number four'."

A fitting choice as it turned out as, "Without faith we'll never achieve anything," she said.

And three years ago, according to her biography on her official website, not exactly thrilled with life as a model, she gave it all up, took the risk of returning to Paris with just "A few clothes, some photos and half-a-dozen original songs."

Hard work, knocking on doors, a string of small gigs as the opening act for other artists and getting heard by the right people paid off, and last year she had enough of a reputation and self-penned material to record her first album with a number of well-known and highly-respected French musicians.

The result was the album "The shape of a broken heart", one which has brought about plenty of comparisons with the Grammy award-winning US singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman.

And that's largely because of Imany's resonant and powerful voice - the very same one she had something of a complex about when she was a girl.

"It doesn't annoy me at all when I'm called 'the new Tracy Chapman' because I'm a fan," she says.

"I just think it's a little bit of an exaggeration as there's only one Tracy Chapman."

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