French singer a fan of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar

Jazz musician Melina Tobiana, recently in Bengaluru, is influenced by jazz legends.

French singer, songwriter and pianist Melina Tobiana recently performed at a concert with her band 'Melina Tobiana Quintet' at Windmills, Whitefield. The lead singer, who is influenced by the work of Jacques Brel and Louis Armstrong, blends jazz, groove and soul with the 5-piece band.

Melina talks about her music, inspiration and future projects in an interview with Malini Raghu.

Tell us a bit about your musical journey.

I began to play the piano very young, and I’ve always loved singing. After I finished school, I joined a conservatory to learn jazz singing. I did this for a year, and then I began to perform in small bars, cabarets, restaurants and jazz clubs.

Now I have a lot of projects with musicians of different genres. Each group I play with has a different story.

About your work with Quintet.

I met Martin Guimbellot (double bass player) at a small gig, and we had a great connection. We began to work together to compose an album.
Stéphan Moutot (saxophone), Emmanuel Duprey (piano) and Remy Voide (drums) joined soon after to complete the process. Our first album was out in 2015, and the journey has been beautiful since then.

Is this your first time performing in India?

Yes! It is exciting. It’s amazing for us to travel so far with our music; it’s an honour for us to discover India.

Who is your inspiration?

I have a lot of people who inspire me. I listen to jazz singers like Billy Holliday, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan etc., but I also listen to soul music, rock pop etc.; I love music in general.

What is your musical style? What is that element that makes you stand out?

I would say Jazz because I work a lot with jazz musicians. The truth is that jazz today is a mix of many styles of music and that’s why I feel free to experiment with different feelings and vibes.

Do you follow Indian music or artistes?

Except for sitar player Ravi Shankar I can’t think of anyone I know. But, I am looking forward to discovering some artistes and Indian music while I am here.

Your thoughts on the development of jazz music.

Jazz is richer than never before. From Louis Armstrong to Robert Glasper, there is a world of music out there. Their influence is big, and that’s what I like the most about it.

What is in the pipeline?

I have a new project with a group called 'BLOOM' that we created it with singer Laurence Ilous. The band is composed of three singers, double bass and percussions. Our first album will be released at the end of this year. Singing with other voices is a different and beautiful experience.

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