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Irma was born and raised in Douala. For her, Cameroon = childhood, a happy, privileged childhood. Her biologist father and pharmacist mother paid great attention to the successful education of their children, and music was everywhere, all the time – the church choir, piano lessons (starting age 7), Dad’s guitar at home, albums by Michael Jackson, Jeff Buckley, Ben Harper… It was a happy time, albeit with a certain reality check. “In Cameroon,” says Irma, “you have 1% rich people and 99% of the population suffering. I saw the injustices, the misery on my doorstep and it made me incredibly angry.” She was just 13 when she composed one of her first songs, the prophetic “I Know” in which she sings “My only weapon is this song.” Little did she know her stock of weapons was soon to expand in unexpected ways…
Irma arrived in France at the age of 15 to continue her studies. For her, France = adolescence… and rebellion, obviously. During the end of year concerts at her catholic school she dared to play “Another Brick In The Wall” by Pink Floyd and “Highway To Hell” by AC/DC, marking the beginning of a life she had certainly not seen coming.
Irma didn’t force her way to fame – she was chosen. One day age 19, out of boredom, she dressed up and filmed herself singing Jacques Brel’s “Au Suivant”, thinking she would send the video to her best friend. Too big to e-mail, she posted it on YouTube. Immediately, the video started getting shares and enthusiastic comments. Encouraged by the reactions, she recorded a few more cover versions followed by some of her own songs, a request often made in the comments. Then one morning she woke up and found herself on the YouTube homepage in twenty- five countries around the world. Producers started calling, offers for TV reality shows started arriving (she didn’t even consider accepting) and then the founder of My Major Company contacted her. Irma liked the concept of cofunding a project, the idea of sharing, of a community. Success came quickly – in just 48 hours, a record 416 cofunder-producers had invested in the project. “All of a sudden I had responsibilities, I couldn’t let them down,” she says. Irma left for New York to record her album with Lenny Kravitz’ producer, but it turned out to be a little less than the American dream. Although she knew what she wanted, she wasn’t happy with the way the album turned out. “It was over-produced. I didn’t even recognise my own songs, and I didn’t feel I could play them that way in front of an audience.” Bravely, she told her label about her doubts. Far from being annoyed, the people at My Major Company were sympathetic and even impressed – this wasn’t a tantrum from an inexperienced girl, but a young woman asserting her position as an artist, showing her determination and integrity. Irma was given the time necessary to rework her album, and discovered a taste for playing on stage, “a deeply moving pleasure, a crazy feeling.” Her album Letter to the Lord was released in February 2011. Whether they had first discovered her on the internet or at a concert, the fans were eager to hear what she could produce, and they weren’t disappointed. A year later, Google used one of her tracks in an ad for their Chrome browser and told her extraordinary story. The track was “I Know” – the song she had composed ten years earlier as a young girl, dreaming in Cameroon.
Irma is back with Faces and eagerly preparing to play live again.