Mawazine Sessions: For French singer Imany, songs come straight from the heart
Five years after its release, Imany’s debut album is the gift that keeps on giving. The Shape of a Broken Heart has helped the French soul singer to build a growing, eclectic legion of fans, stretching from Europe to Turkey, India and Japan.
The former model – whose parents were from Comoros, a small island nation off the east coast of Africa – has a new EP out, There Were Tears. It is another winning collection of blues and folk songs, anchored by her show-stopping deep voice.
Speaking at the recent Mawazine Festival in Rabat, the 37-year-old singer describes the new songs as another chapter in her life, which recently included becoming a mother.
With the success of her first album, she has no regrets about ditching the runways of the modelling industry a decade ago.
“At least at 27, I had something to talk about, compared with if I had started when I was 15,” she says. “But I am not trying to judge. I am grateful that I started when I was ready, when I had something to say – and that I still have something to say.”
There Were Tears is another solid collection of songs – but why an EP rather than a full album?
It is a bridge towards the next album. I was supposed to release it last year but I had a baby so we pushed it back. So I would look at this release as an appetiser, and three of the songs belong to the album – but the production is kind of different. I am still working on the new album. It will hopefully be out in September.
Are you surprised that people still seem to be discovering The Shape of a Broken Heart?
The album is definitely a slow burner. Every few months a new country wakes up and wants to know more about me, which means I have to get over there. This is what made my tours very long.
Your tours include stops in interesting places, including India, Turkey and Japan. What is it about these songs that caught the interest of such a diverse international fan base?
I really don’t know – but if you ask me about my perspective, I think that when you do music from an honest place, you will meet someone. I have been working really hard to create strong songs, melodies and lyrics and try to sing them with all my heart and sincerity. I think people responded to that and they found some things within the songs that speak to them.
Before you switched to music 10 years ago, you a had a successful career as a model, working in Europe and North America. What is it difficult to give that up?
Any transition is complicated but I gave myself the means. It’s not as if I was a top model – I was not. I worked on and off and it was hard after the 9/11 attacks in the United States [in 2001]. It became harder particularly for models in that middle category. So instead of struggling to pay the rent, I thought I should struggle to do something I really like. I took risks towards that. From the moment I set my mind on it, it took time and effort – but I got there.
What was the toughest challenge you faced to become a music artist?
To find the courage. I thought with my deep, weird voice there is no place for me. You know, we don’t walk at the same age. So I had to start at 27 and take it from there.
Talking about challenges, your first child was born last year. How has motherhood changed you?
I have changed a lot. I am very tired and sleep much less than I used to – but it is marvellous. It is difficult but it is very fulfilling. As an artist, though, it is very tiring – and he is only six months old. I have yet to reach a phase where I can start creating music. But I am more at peace with myself, and feel better in my body and mind. I don’t really care what others think. I do what I can and I am more relaxed.
Do you feel success has made you an ambassador of sorts for Comoros?
The fact that I am from the Comoros drove people to check the geographical location because very few people know. My origins do influence me, because this is who I am, so I definitely carry my origins with my personality.
• Next week on Mawazine Sessions, we talk to Palestinian folk group Trio Joubran
Updated: August 1, 2016 04:00 AM