[Click play for our full-length interview with Jean-Francis Varre – August 17, 2016]
If you’re looking for West African music in DC, you’ll want to meet Jean-Francis Varre, the multilingual lead vocalist and creator of Sahel, a group based in Washington DC that explores his Senegalese and Cape Verdean roots, mixed with zouk, reggae and related funky sounds. He composes and sings in English, Spanish, Lingala, French, Wolof, and Portuguese, believing that because African cultures are oral, the Diaspora is closely linked through its shared rhythms and melodic styles. Jean-Francis has worked to preserve and stress this tie from the past to the present by mastering a range of musical genres, including rock & roll, soul, salsa, zouk, samba and mbalax. A self taught musician, he plays bass, guitar and percussion and has toured with British soul icon Omar and Grammy nominated salsa band Gonzalo Grau y la Clave Secreta, plays with local rock groups Sitali and Lucy Brown, and has been featured at various Smithsonian and D.C. Arts Commission events with a variety of projects.