Jean-Francis Varre was born to Senegalese and Cape Verdean immigrants in Washington D.C. A self-taught singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, Jean-Francis often visited family in Africa and learned to perform the eclectic music he heard and loved in his youth. Whether singing, playing bass, guitar or percussion, Jean-Francis has performed musical genres from American Soul & Rock, to Senegalese Mbalax.
Jean-Francis credits his father for constantly playing a wide spectrum of music in the house and introducing him to influences such as Motown, Ray Charles, Miles Davis, The Beatles, Sly & the Family Stone, Orquesta Aragon, Arsenio Rodriguez, Gilberto Gil, Djavan, Youssou N’Dour, Hugh Masekela, Jimmy Cliff, and many more. This broad exposure to modern music, all of which are cultural fusions founded on the depth and funk of African rhythms, influenced Jean-Francis to shape a proud, inclusive, and multicultural world view.
Inspired by heritage and travel, Jean-Francis dedicated himself early on to building bridges for all cultures through the music of the African diaspora. Singing in six languages including English, Spanish, Wolof, Portuguese & French Creole, Jean-Francis has performed multiple genres in various local D.C. projects such as Funk/Rock group Lucy Brown (Megaforce/Atlantic Records), Rock power trio Sitali, Cuban Timba ensemble Orquesta Ashe, Congolese Rumba Jazz master Raymond Brenk (Smithsonian and D.C. Arts Commission). In addition, Jean-Francis has performed with international notables including British Soul icon Omar (RCA/Freestyle records), Grammy nominated Salsa/Timba ensemble Gonzalo Grau y la Clave Secreta, and collaborated with DC Grammy nominated Hip-Hop artist Christylez Bacon.
In 2016-17, Jean-Francis funded and independently travelled to Cuba and twice to Salvador Bahia Brazil to further his lifelong study of the music and culture of the African diaspora. Comfortable in Spanish and Portuguese, with a guitar on his back at all times, Jean-Francis made strong contacts with local folkloric musicians, musicologists, national celebrities such as Bahian vocalist Lazzo Matumbi and finally, with native international icons such as Cuban master Oscar Valdez (Grammy winning co-founder of legendary Cuban Jazz Fusion group 'Irakere') and Brazilian guitar legend and musical director Roberto Mendes (Maria Bethania).
Jean-Francis performs with a joy, energy and abandon that momentarily makes you forget that you are being taken on a cultural journey. This energy and desire to link people makes Jean-Francis as comfortable on a Kennedy Center stage as he is in a Rock club.
Currently, Jean-Francis leads his latest original project Sahel, which expands on the fusion of modern music from the African Diaspora. In addition, Jean-Francis is working on an educational bridge building project entitled 'Atlantic Odyssey'. Building on his education in sociology, musical experience and travel, Atlantic Odyssey traces and recounts the movements of African peoples throughout the diaspora and their influence on modern world culture through the evolution of the music of the 19th & 20th centuries.