The next soul R&B sensation coming from France.
Soul musicians as talented as Jo Raharison come around once in a generation, and none have hitherto hailed from Toulouse, France. Raharison, a second-generation French Madagascan, is about to see to that. He joins a lineage of black music legends who’ve changed the face of pop over the past 50 years, from Stevie Wonder to Pharrell Williams; Michael Jackson to Kanye West.
The prodigious singer and multi instrumentalist’s gift was recognized early in life - when Jo was six he learned piano at the local music conservatoire and sang with the « Maitrise » of « Le Théâtre du Capitole » soon after. By his early teens he could play the guitar like a demon, and he began to make music in his bedroom that doffed a chapeau to Timbaland, Pharrell and Kanye. “My other influences include Craig David, Justin Timberlake and Elton John,” says Jo, “but I must say, as a songwriter and a beat-maker I listen to and am inspired by a range of genres and artists, from 19th century romantic composers like Chopin to modern indie pop groups like Phoenix. I love Bob Marley and the Wailers as much as I love Drake...”
As well as the aforementioned legends of soul, hip hop and R’n’B, Jo is a product of his environment, taking subtle influences from both his surroundings and his family heritage. “I think the cool weather in the South of France - the lifestyle, the sun and the colours when you walk around town... they all play a part. It’s intensively chill, haha! There, nobody’s really in a hurry. We got time...”. Jo was living in Paris for four years, but came back to Toulouse recently for the laid-back vibes and to finish off this introductory EP. The Madagascan influence is more subtle, but Jo recalls listening to artists like Mahaleo and Eric Manana driving in the car with his parents in the motherland, absorbing the pronounced melodies by osmosis.
Despite his upbringing, Jo prefers to sing in English, the language of so many of his heroes. Writing in the pop lingua franca has always come naturally to him. “I don’t listen to a lot of French artists,” he admits, “and English is musical in the way that it sounds; with the emphasises it makes, it is more rhythmical. Maybe someday I’ll write a song in French but for the moment English is the language I’m most comfortable with when writing songs.”
A diminutive French artist writing immaculate DIY R’n’B in English?
Jo must be a contender to follow in the footsteps of Christine and the Queens and breakthrough in the English-speaking world with his playful, infectious pop. “I don’t want to take anything for granted,” says Jo, keeping his feet firmly on the ground.