This is my English translation of this French article, which was written in January. This month her debut album was the #1-selling album in France in its first week of release.
Indila: This Winter's Surprise Hit
by Eric Bureau
She's everywhere. Hard to turn on the radio without hearing Indila, impossible to watch a music channel without seeing her video for "Dernière Danse" ("Last Dance") in Paris. First solo song and first hit. Number 2 bestselling single behind Pharrell Williams' "Happy", number 1 music video on TV, in addition to 35 million Internet views (as of March 2014).
Even without an album, she still landed her first TV performance on the acclaimed show, Vivement Dimanche ("Can't Wait For Sunday"), invited by an artist who found her song irresistible.
She's everywhere…and nowhere. Elusive. When you do an Internet search for Indila, you'll find virtually no information on her, neither official nor personal. Instead, her collaborations with popular rappers, and the release date of her debut album, February 24. Different websites say she's of Algerian descent, between 26 and 33 years old.
When we meet her in Paris, at Davout studio where she recorded her album with her "musical partner in crime", producer Skalp, she brilliantly sidesteps and eludes questions. "I'm the same age as my music, which is timeless. How old you think I am?" Between 25 and 30. "Okay then I'm between 25 and 30 today," she laughs. "Then we'll see tomorrow." Equally mysterious, her life story. "I'm a true Parisian, born in Paris. A child of the world. My family's heritage is Algerian, but also Cambodian, Egyptian, and Indian. And might I add: my middle name, Indila, comes from my endless love for India."
She ends up revealing that she was a tour guide at Rungis Market, the world's largest wholesale food market. She's always loved singing but hasn't formally studied music. In her formative years, she was raised on a diet of Enrico Macias, Michael Jackson, Brel, Edith Piaf, Algerian singers like Warda and Indian ones like Lata Mangeshkar. "Music is like me. No borders or barriers," Indila says in a soft voice, almost childlike, but self-confident. "It's no trouble for me at all to switch from Hip-Hop to adult contemporary."
Her album makes it clear she hasn't always seen the bright side of life. Her song "Last Dance" contains a play on words with "douce souffrances" ("sweet sufferings") and "Douce France" ("sweet France") by Charles Tenet, which she used to sing as a child with her older sister while bicycling. In "Tourner dans le vide" ("persevering amidst emptiness"), her next single, she laments the absence of a loved one, dark-skinned, son of a laborer, and hopes for his return. "Yes, this album talks a lot about the absence of loved ones and the void that it leaves, about memories, but about hopes too, about life passing by too quickly."
Pokerfaced, holding a cup of tea, she also drops this incredible statement: "I'm being born with this album, I didn't exist before. What matters isn't my life, but the story I want to tell the public."
Keeping things simple. For the sake of style? "I don't like to talk much. Even less so about myself," she tells us. "So far, I've been satisfied being in the shadows of the rappers I sing with, that's given me a sense of security." With the success that awaits her, she's going to have to force herself into the spotlight.