In the kitchen, and on stage, with Munya

Osheaga 2019 saw no shortage of exciting acts from around the world, so Québécoise singer Josie Boivin, better known by her moniker Munya, found herself at home at Parc Jean-Drapeau. Hailing from Saguenay, Quebec, Boivin trained professionally in opera, and then briefly in jazz voice at the Université de Montréal (UdeM) before leaving to embark on her solo career.

To the casual listener, Boivin’s time spent in the UdeM practice rooms may not be apparent at first. But Boivin’s soprano stretches with ease on tracks like “Des Bisous Partout” and “Trop Tard,” and Boivin attributes her music’s  dreamy quality to her use of major and minor sevenths. It’s clear that she has technical sophistication as well as musical ingenuity.

Boivin’s education and influences have resulted in a sound that she aptly dubbs “new synth folk.” Though she features prominently on the synth keyboards, the meandering guitars and the delicate vocals that accompany them evoke pastoral drives and charming love stories. Boivin attributes her preoccupation with dream pop to her parents’ musical taste.  “As a kid, my parents really liked French music, so my mom loved Francois Hardy, and I think she’s still a big influence in my music. I love the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Boivin said in an interview with The McGill Tribune.

All the while, Boivin’s traditional education in music has informed her work. She cites classical composers, such as Claude Debussy and Erik Satie, as well as jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and Bill Evans as her musical influences.

Though Boivin underwent a conventional formal musical education, her beginnings as Munya were less typical: As booking space was slim, she set up her own studio in her sister’s kitchen.

“She would go to work from 9 to 5, [and] I would put my stuff on the table, and just make sure everything [was] perfectly back to normal when she got back,” Boivin explained. “I just started making music in the kitchen and had no expectations. I was just following my heart and making some beats.”

This determined, do-it-yourself tenacity served Boivin well, propelling her to produce three EPs—North Hatley, Delmano, and Blue Pine—in less than a year. Drawing energy from her family, the Montreal music scene, and her friends, Boivin sees her homespun roots as fundamental to her craft and performance.

“For me, right now, I feel like [honesty is how] I can best introduce myself to my audience and my crowd, and that’s also how I make music. Just with my guitar and my keyboard, my sampler, and I feel good about it,” Boivin said. “Because, it’s just like who I am. Really, there’s no b-s. That’s how I make music.”

Though Osheaga brands itself as Montreal’s largest music festival, Boivin sees it not as her final victory, but a springboard for more opportunities.

“Last year, when I released my first EP, I had no expectations, and now here I am, I just played the Jazz Festival, [and] I’m playing at Osheaga, like, ‘What the hell?!’” Boivin said. “Playing with all the other bands—I love Beach House, Mac Demarco, all those—it’s so inspiring for me and a good support for me. Like, people like my music, okay, I’ll just make more songs then!”

Munya will be opening for Charlotte Cardin Aug. 17 at Église St-Matthews New Hope Luther in Sudbury, ON, presented by SiriusXM. Her music is available to stream on Spotify and Bandcamp.

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