Lately I’ve been extra intrigued with current music and artists from countries other than the U.S. I’ve been listening to different artists and genres from all over the world, and really realized something- music is music everywhere. And what I mean by that, is that the foundation and purpose translates the same no matter where you’re from. Strong feelings and emotions being expressed musically comes out “the same way” everywhere, with some obvious differences. The beauty of it is you can take it in seemingly endless and individual directions.
Douala-born and Paris-based afrofolk singer-songwriter Irma is one such artist. Her song “Black Sun” is what caught my ear, and it definitely harnesses a unique and definite charm. Her voice soars and strikes not unlike Lauryn Hill, and her passion is not questioned.
What starts off as a brief drum-tease, sounding like the bones of an approaching hip hop song, quickly turns into a badass slapping of guitar strings with a booming, soulful voice, and its guns blazing after that.
The song continues to power through and beautifully melds a soulful, R&B flare to her otherwise fight-like anthem about inner conflict. The fiery feelings of being fed up with personal discontent are evident in Irma’s incredible voice.
Irma is currently making concert-from-home videos and posting them on her Facebook page, (linked above) and like the rest of us, is just trying to ride this thing out. We had the chance to ask her questions about the song and much more.
What’s the inspiration behind your song “Black Sun”?
I came up with this open-tuned tapping loop one day, while practicing and it immediately resonated with a text I wrote called « Black Sun ». It was about the chaotic moment when you try to free yourself from your own barriers and self loathing. When you try to stop being your own enemy and learn how to love and be kind to yourself. I called it “Black Sun” because it’s a moment when you are simultaneously the darkness and the light, the victim and the savior. As I slapped my guitar, the riff immediately resonated with the violence of this fight.
Is it strictly a single or is it part of an EP/LP?
Black Sun is part of my third LP called « The Dawn ».
Where was it recorded and who was involved?
It was recorded in my bedroom in Lyon by me. The backing vocals were recorded in Paris by the three amazing singers that perform with me on stage. And the song was mixed in London by an amazing artist and engineer called Rhys Downing.
What have you been working on musically as of late?
Lately, I’ve been focusing on creating my live show. I worked on live versions for each song as I like to perform different versions on stage.
Describe your songwriting process:
Each song had its process, but most of the time I write the lyrics and the music separately. I like to be in my studio to produce the tracks, to build up beats from loops that I search here and there and that I tweak, but also from kitchen utensils and everything that makes noise. Or just to record a guitar or piano melody. I open a blank track and let out everything that comes to my mind and then close the session because I know it will add up at some point. It always does. For the lyrics, I tend to write them outside the studio, while in the train for example.
Queen, MJ, Fela Kuti, Lauryn Hill, Jeff Buckley.
What might you have tentatively planned music-wise for post-pandemic life?
I plan on going back on tour!
Song/artist you can’t stop listening to:
James Blake. Everything he does.
Favorite way to spend a Friday night:
At home, creating music or watching The Simpsons.
Favorite part about life in Paris:
Walking for hours in the streets.
What is Douala known for/what’s your favorite part about it?
Douala is known for its diversity, its music, its food, its electricity and their all my favorite part about it!
Fun fact about Irma:
I have a twin sister called Ines . She’s a PhD in Chemistry!
If I wasn’t playing music, I’d be:
What the rest of 2020 might have in store for Irma? (aside from quarantine):
More music and tour! And also the release of my videos, because I shot a video for each song of the record.
Thank you the interview and the support! Take care!