March 22, 2019

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Bilingual breakthrough

Franco-Manitoban singer Rayannah reaches toward her French roots for new album

Rayannah will unveil her new album, 'Nos repaires,' at the West End Cultural Centre on Saturday, March 16.

TRAVIS ROSS PHOTO

Rayannah will unveil her new album, 'Nos repaires,' at the West End Cultural Centre on Saturday, March 16.

The French term “nos repaires” offers a bit of word play.

When translated into English, it can mean “our haunts” or “our lairs,” and it can also refer to the idea of life landmarks or, if you are not in your repaires, a state of disorientation.

And the more Franco-Manitoban electro-soul artist Rayannah thought about it, the more Nos repaires felt like the perfect album title.

“For me it can mean so many things; it can mean things we are maybe using as crutches or it can mean things that are exactly what make us whole or it can be a positive thing or it can be a negative thing,” says the 29-year-old singer-songwriter, who released her debut full-length March 8.

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The French term "nos repaires" offers a bit of word play.

When translated into English, it can mean "our haunts" or "our lairs," and it can also refer to the idea of life landmarks or, if you are not in your repaires, a state of disorientation.

The album cover for 'Nos repaires'

TRAVIS ROSS PHOTO

The album cover for 'Nos repaires'

And the more Franco-Manitoban electro-soul artist Rayannah thought about it, the more Nos repaires felt like the perfect album title.

"For me it can mean so many things; it can mean things we are maybe using as crutches or it can mean things that are exactly what make us whole or it can be a positive thing or it can be a negative thing," says the 29-year-old singer-songwriter, who released her debut full-length March 8.

"For me, I hope that it is evocative in some way because everyone has haunts."

Nos repaires has felt like a long time coming for Rayannah fans; she dropped her stunning debut EP, Boxcar Lullabies, in 2015, and followed that with months and months of touring, both in Canada and in international markets. While all that time on the road was great for building up her live show and musical reach, it didn’t leave a lot of time to make new music.

It wasn’t until the summer of 2017 when Rayannah and collaborator/co-producer Mario Lepage started working on new beats and vocal loops, and not until 2018 when she release two tracks from the new record, En attendant demain and Best of You, both of which were received well by critics and fans alike.

Nos repaires is largely written in French, though the sentiments of the songs can be felt regardless of lyrical understanding. Rayannah sings about love, heartache, relationship dynamics and being a woman or non-binary person at a time when conflicting expectations and both internal and external judgments are at an all-time high; topics as layered and dense as the soundscape she has meticulously crafted.

"There’s a lot of songs I wrote from a personal space when I was needing some kind of comfort, you know, when you’re aching so much and you need to find some way, and for me that way is music," she says.

"I think there’s so many approaches to writing albums; some people set out to compose an album, but in my case, it was more collecting things that were already there and seeing if they can be something together, and some things didn’t make the cut of course, but it was more about reflecting the material that I had," says Rayannah.

"It was important for me to put out something mostly in French because I do work in both French and English, and so far I didn’t really have that (French album). And one of my biggest hopes with the record, and right now it’s a big question mark so we’ll see, is that people who have followed my project that are not French speaking will still connect with it. Because I’m not Québécois, I’m not from France, I’m Franco-Manitoban, so that community is as anglophone as it is francophone, so I really hope anglophones will give it a shot."

Rayannah also hopes not only that the bredth of the album’s sonic landscape and content paves the way for her future projects to go down equally eclectic paths, but that listeners will take the time to really live with the songs on Nos repaires.

"It’s a very dense record, I would not put it on if I was like, ‘It’s Sunday night, I’m going to have a bath,’’ she says, laughing.

"In a sense it’s a lot to ask, but I’m hoping people will really dig into it. If anything I hope it opens up the project in the way that it’s possible for me to collaborate with whoever I want to collaborate with and that it’s wide enough that the mark of the project maybe just becomes that it’s kind of this wacky artsy thing... These are times that are really tense and charged and I’m hoping that there’s something open about it, and that, from a selfish standpoint, I hope it allows me to go wherever I want to go."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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