9 Francophone Singers You Should Be Listening To
Featuring genre-breaking artists like Inna Modja, Awori, Lous and the Yakuza, Yseult and more. And, yes, they're all women.
Black pop and hip-hop artists are gaining more popularity in the mainstream French music scene, with artists like Aya Nakamura currently dominating the national charts, the first black artist to do so since Lynsha back in 2004. For many years, the music industry has forced Black Francophone singers to either fit in a strict hip-hop category or as "world music" artists, a strange moniker that is catch-all for any POC making music. There are many more French-speaking female artists who are bending genres and delivering both unique visuals and music. See our list below.
Yseult was one of participants in the French musical talent show La Nouvelle star in 2013. The singer then wrote for pop French artists like Yannick Noah and Chimène Badi. Her songs talk about racism, body positivity and ambition. She has modeled for ASOS and recently appeared in Vogue. Yseult released her last EP, Noir, in 2019. The cover is a picture of herself: a dark-skinned plus sized woman—a visual that had rarely been seen before in the French music industry. Yseult is adamant that she doesn't want to be reduced to her body or her skin color. There's more to her than that and her mesmerizing music is proof of that. She describes it as Y-trap, a mix of trap and pop music.
Lous and The Yakuza
The artist Lous and The Yakuza, who grew up in Rwanda, DRC and Belgium, loves defying expectations. Her music has many influence—trap, R&B, pop, hip-hop, and more. Her lyrics are raw, dark and powerful: from solitude to self-acceptance, Lous doesn't shy away from exploring the truth. The singer is very open about her tough upbringing and her willingness to share some of her experience with her growing following is a proof of how powerful and relatable her music is. She started making music as a teenager and, after being in the music scene for a few years, she dropped her first single "Dilemme" in 2019. The visuals for Lous and The Yakuza's music videos are equally striking. They're based on classical paintings, as well as the landscape from the housing projects of France and Belgium, created by director Wendy Morgan. Lous and the Yakuza's upcoming album Gore will be released in late 2020.
Inna Modja grew up in Mali. Her neighbor was the famous musician Salif Keita who helped her get into a group of touring musicians, The Rail Band. She then moved to France as a teenager to work as a solo artist. Her music is a mix between pop, soul and other influences such as traditional African sounds. She released her first single "Mister H" followed by the album Everyday Is a New World in 2009. The famous photographer Malick Sidibe shot the album cover. In 2011, her single "French Cancan" reached number 4 on the French music charts. Her last album Hotel Bamako, saw her returning to her Malian roots: she sings and even raps in Bambara.
The pop and R&B French singer Maud Elka makes music influenced by Congolese sounds as well as American pop and hip-hop. In 2013, she collaborated with the rapper Dinos on the song "Buzz l'éclair au chocolat." In 2018, she won a prestigious musical contest and performed with artists like Dadju and Vegedream. In 2019, Maud released her first EP, P.Q.M. The innovative artist is now using confinement as a new way to display her creativity: every day she drops a new freestyle on social media. Listen to her new song "Confinement," about her experience in self isolation, something we can all relate to.
The Montreal-based singer Leïla Lanova grew up in a family of artists: her father was a pianist and photographer. As a child, she grew up listening to Lionel Richie, Chaka Khan, Janis Joplin, and others. Lanova started her career as a teenager, working with Drake on his single "All Night." In 2014, she released her EP, Leila Lanova. She has written and collaborated with many artists and created her own production company Belfast Avenue. She released her single "Bread," a duet with French artist Jok'Air in 2019. Her new single, "Malin Plaisir," was dropped in 2020.
Singer, rapper and songwriter Meryl's career started in Martinique with her father introducing her to zouk, soca and dancehall music. In 2013, the Martiniquan rapper Specta mentored her. They released two songs together, "ADN" and "Agression Textuelle." Meryl has ghostwritten and collaborated with many well-known French-speaking artists such as Soprano, Shat, and Niska. In 2019, she released her single "Beni," about the difficulties of making it in the music industry. 2020 saw her drop her first mixtape, Jour avant Caviar.
The folk-pop singer-songwriter Tamara Weber grew up in Canada, where she began playing instruments at a young age.She participated in the second edition of the Quebec version of The Voice in 2014 and The Voice France in 2016 . In 2014, Tamara released Time, Wind & Fire, her first pop folk album. She also opened for artists such as Ben L'Oncle Soul, Bobby Bazini, and others. Her sound is raw and intimate. She's known for busking intensively all over Europe, allowing her to grow a massive and dedicated fanbase. Her EP, Us Wild Folks, was crowdfunded by her fans and released in 2019.
Awori is a Swiss-Ugandan rapper, singer and songwriter. She was raised in Kampala, where she wrote her first songs at nine-years-old and regularly performed them on the school stage At the age of 11, she moved to Switzerland to live with her mother, adapting to her new surroundings through poetry and song. While in high-school, she co-founded the band Kami Awori, which is strongly influenced by afrofuturistic themes. Awori went solo in 2018. She is currently working on various projects with artists from the African diaspora as well as the continent. Her sound is inspired by artists like 702, SWV, Kelela and Yukimi Nagano.
The French singer Celia Wa moved to Guadeloupe from Paris as a child and started playing the Ka, a traditional drum. After coming back to Paris, she started working with artists such as Casey, Lisa Spada and G'Ny. Her music is inspired by hip-hop, electro, reggae and pop. In 2013, she released her first EP, Wa. She has performed in Europe and the West indies since then. In 2018, she started working on an entirely new project, the "Adan on det soley," a collaboration with producer Ka(ra)mi, a mix of electronic music and Caribbean influences, that she calls Karibfurusound.
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