From Laura Piccinini's interview in D la Repubblica, 05/27/2023
What the hell kind of voice is that?
by Laura Piccinini
Imany's voice vibrates and hits on Zoom. "But before they tell you you have a great voice, you were the little girl with the big voice," she recounts now. That was when her name was Nadia Mladjao and "to school, even though I knew the answer, I didn't raise my hand so I wouldn't be the center of attention, "what the hell voice is that?" For the longest time I hated it. The one you hear now I have from always, from when I was 4-5 years old, it's not something that came to me later," she says wryly in a leopard print Adidas sweatshirt, also a symbol of her identity. Imany will arrive in Italy on July 1 where she will bring her show Voodoo Cello to Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto (Piazza Duomo). The Comorian-born French singer, described as a mixture of Billie Holiday and Tracy Chapman, is a "softer Grace Jones" who from picccola, as well as to being excessive in voice, was also too tall. So she became, in order: high jump promise, Ford agency model "in the still-awesome NY of the Zero Years," until she indulged her original vocation as a singer and was "the beginning of everything."
Singer, musician or performer?
"Artist is the best definition, not so much because with the web you are generally more things together but because you are always the product of many attempts and lives. With music the discipline of my previous athletic life helped me, if you are in the national team you have to try and try again until you master the practice in front to coach, jury, audience. With fashion, inches counted less than in high jump, the criteria for being chosen was definitely less mathematical but you made a habit to of being discarded and trying again, dozens of casts a day showing the book as if you had to sell your mother."
Between the two he finally chose...?
"If I had to be a slave to one job-actually two, because from modeling earning money was no problem, but I still had to round out the evenings as a bartender-I figured it was better to kill myself for something worthwhile. There is no New Yorker whose concern is not paying rent and bills. There wasn't the ease to being self-taught that social gives, but in my circle someone was a friend of a friend of a coach."
Although she has found that not having Céline Dion technicalities makes her authentic...
"I have always liked Tracy Chapman's way of making music, her talent is the simplicity with which she tells her personal to break your heart and then heal you. Music is a DirectLine that allows you to have the conversations you feel are most urgent with the audience."
"Endometriosis. It is a disorder that affects so many women, including me. No one talked about it, and instead I decided to tell about it in a song. But I also wrote about sentimental empowerment, DonT Be So Shy, inspired by the eight female cellists in my band, all of whom are leaders."
What do algorithms do to music?
"They are a good danger, We don't need them. We should be our own algorithms. Stop following the next name the web points out to us because it is our kind. The person who is not for us helps us to change or to grow. I wonder if the algorithms would have given the okay to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, at the time already the discographers opposed a long series of no's... But then, fortunately, the "humans" retraced their steps."
And is TikTok changing the music?
"Several record labels tell musicians that if the baseline of a track doesn't stick after 12 seconds, it doesn't work. You used to just think about to bringing out a unique album, now you wait for the audience to tell you what they need."
What kind of work is being an artist today?
"There are too many fulls and too many lows, but if I am not touring I am still a mother of a seven-year-old "elder" whom my music producer husband and I named Isaiah because he sounded good and that he was an Old Testament prophet I didn't mind, I am not religious, spiritual yes. And my three-year-old daughter is named Zola Assaman which means heaven in Wolof. Imany on the other hand stands for perfede, to believe, even in oneself."
Do you like your voice now?
"Learning to listen to myself was so difficult. Like relearning to love myself. A beautiful
day, however, at the end of a day in the studio to recording, I say to myself, "Wow. It feels good to be touched by one's own voice."