Zaz: Effet Miroir

Camus argued that travel is a spiritual testing, stripping us of habitual surroundings and taking us not away from but toward our essence. Zaz, one of the most popular French artists abroad, did three world tours in four years and says her adventures reshaped her sense of self. Known for retro-modern French chanson and jazz manouche, on Effet Miroir (Mirror Effect), her fourth album, she presents a more nuanced and eclectic soundscape, 15 songs … More Zaz: Effet Miroir

Kendji Girac: Amigo

As one of France’s leading recording artists, Kendji Girac knows the rigors of a marathon tour—indeed, before voice or instrument, his earliest training was for the road. He was born in the Dordogne to a family of Catalan-speaking Gypsies who spent six months of every year in a caravan. His father taught him to prune trees and his grandfather taught him guitar. When he was 16 his uncle filmed him singing a flamenco adaptation of Bella, a popular hip-hop … More Kendji Girac: Amigo

Ann O’aro

She stares from the album cover—stark, vulnerable, penetrating. From outside, Ann O’aro’s life may seem in search of a metaphor, a verbal contrivance to make it sound less horrifying, but she’s beyond that. As a child, she played piano, organ and flute. And as a child, she was raped by her father who, when Ann was 15, committed suicide. After school, she left her home on Réunion, the French island in the Indian Ocean, working as a tattoo artist … More Ann O’aro

Manuel Malou: Unomundo

Think global, act local. The mantra applies to government planning, the environment and business, but it’s also a defining feature of music—and few artists active today have embodied the concept longer than the French-Spanish singer-songwriter Manuel Malou. When he was eight he won a flamenco competition in Paris; as a teenager, he was in the vanguard of Spain’s post-Franco cultural awakening and, as part of Los Golfos, created an enduring … More Manuel Malou: Unomundo

Bénabar: Le Début de la Suite

Gavroche, Eleanor Rigby, Lili Marlene—evocative characters of literature and song are often everyday people in uncommon circumstances or described in illuminating context. When it comes to finely detailed portraits and scenes, the French singer-songwriter Bénabar (Bruno Nicolini) leverages his modest start—he played more than 300 bar concerts before he met his first record … More Bénabar: Le Début de la Suite

Teacher Jekyll: Ondas

It’s easy to exaggerate a kindred connection between two people from the same city, even if they were born 150 years apart. But consider: Jules Verne, who grew up in Nantes, certainly knew that nature can send a wave thousands of miles across the sea before it breaks on a shoreline. And Verne’s modern-day townsman, producer-musician-DJ Olivier Corre, knows that human imagination can create waves that bounce back and forth … More Teacher Jekyll: Ondas

Lycinaïs Jean

She has the look of today’s youth—pierced, tattooed, androgynous—and the soul of romantic poets through the ages. She blends her music but refuses to blend herself, or calibrate her career arc according to market forces. And therein may rest the spark of the singer-songwriter’s prodigious talent. On her debut eponymous album, Lycinaïs Jean (“Jean” pronounced as in Billie Jean), with roots in Guadeloupe and Martinique, now living in Paris … More Lycinaïs Jean

Dafné Kritharas: Djoyas de Mar

Every sea is a timeless highway of hope and sorrow, and Dafné Kritharas has combed the Aegean for telltale echoes. Though focused on tides from the 1920s and 1930s, her crosscurrents run deeper: In 1492, the multicultural Ottoman Empire welcomed Jewish refugees from Spain, creating Ladino-speaking communities across the eastern Mediterranean. The sun set on pluralism with … More Dafné Kritharas: Djoyas de Mar

Koum Tara

Like most urban settlements, Lyon began with people and currents from other places—Roman refugees camped at the confluence of the Saône and Rhône rivers. For two millennia the rivers have framed the city’s heart and in recent years La Confluence, France’s largest urban renewal project, has transformed the area near the original encampment into a vibrant residential, business and cultural hub. Now Lyon is home to another kind of convergence, a dazzling … More Koum Tara

Cocanha: i ès ?

Occitan, mother tongue of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart, had a literary golden age in the 12th century and produced the great singer-songwriters of the Middle Ages, the troubadours and trobarises. It was still widely spoken in southern France in 1904 when the Occitan poet Frédéric Mistral won the Nobel Prize in Literature, but the 20th century was hard on the storied Romance language (nearest relative: Catalan). Though commonly … More Cocanha: i ès ?