Jain and Drama Duo at Wonder Ballroom on Oct. 15, 2018

With a wide range of inspirations gathered from multiple cultures, French-born pop sensation Jain brought her new album, Souldier, to Portland’s Wonder Ballroom last week.

Jain’s debut album, Zanaka, brought such hits as “Come” and “Makeba,” the latter of which fused Jain’s own electropop stylings with African beat influences. Souldier blends just as many styles, with highlights in Europop, Afrobeat and even hints of Bollywood. It’s a stellar pop record and an impressive blend of flavors, but the whole of Jain’s spectacle is best experienced in its live format.

With a simple stage setup (a screen backdrop and a computer console), Jain had plenty of room to bound about during her set, dancing in her own expressive way and involving the eager crowd as much as possible.

The ingenuity of her live set is found not in her vocals or energy, but in the technology behind the music itself. On stage, Jain is alone, without any band, backup vocalists or DJs of any kind. The stage is all her own, so what drives the backing tracks, the loops, the samples? During the set, she took some time to demonstrate this to the crowd.

The console acted as the main hub for the music, with buttons, controls and computers allowing Jain to be her own DJ. When jumping around and really getting into the performance though, a panel of buttons and controls built into the arm of her unique blue jumpsuit allowed her to start and stop loops, tracks and samples, all while giving as much energy to the crowd as possible.

The freedom and versatility Jain demonstrated onstage was unlike anything else most solo pop artists could pull. Her colorful energy, the technology behind the music and the blend of genre and style from around the world came together to form a pop show for all ages and cultures, and it served as the perfect live representation of the French star’s eclectic work. —Brendan Swogger

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