Je suis français
Ils veulent pas que Marianne soit ma fiancée
Peut-être parce qu’ils me trouvent trop foncé
Laisse-moi juste l’inviter à danser
I’m French (but)
They don’t want Marianne to be linked with me
Maybe because they think I’m too dark
Just let me invite her to dance
I’ll liven her up…
—Black M, “Je suis chez moi”
Let me explain… No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
While I started out strong at the beginning of the year, 2020 soon became an epic clusterf*uck. Beyond the ongoing political nightmare, global pandemic, and civic unrest, what was supposed to be a relatively straightforward French gig quickly turned into something that could be a business school case study in how not to manage a project. It soon took over February and, after vowing not to have that happen again, I nevertheless found myself clocking in over 150 hours in the first two weeks of May. No, that is not a typo, or exaggeration. Of course, I’m thankful to have the work, but the added stress on top of everything else has really been too much to bear.
Did I mention the shelter-in-place orders in both San Francisco and Los Angeles have meant that the Math Greek and I have been sharing my studio apartment for over two months? Well, I’m happy to report we haven’t yet killed each other, although we are now under curfew so I suppose there’s no telling what may happen. I hope wherever you are reading this you are doing your best to stay healthy, safe, and sane. It’s a challenge in the best of times to be sure.
In case you need a little motivation to get you through the next few days, weeks, or months, here is one good thing that came out of my long hours: I had to catch up on recent French music and discovered a few artists that have both something to say and a way of saying it that makes you want to get up and dance. They got me through more than a few all-nighters this month. As with Stromae, I can’t believe I’m only learning of them now (especially given that they have sung with, among others, Shakira and Sting), but if you are in the same boat, here are three favorite selections from each. Enjoy!
First up is Black M, or Black Mesrimes, a Parisian rapper and singer-songwriter whose real name (referenced in the first video) is Alpha Diallo.
French notes: Marianne is the symbol of the French Republic, notably featured in the Delacroix painting La Liberté guidant le peuple. The expression s’ambiancer comes from Francophone Africa and roughly translates as motivate, liven up—basically that you are getting ready to party.
French note: This song plays on the French game of effeuiller la marguerite, the original version of “he loves me, he loves me not” which uses the following text in rotation for each plucked petal: elle m’aime… / il m’aime… 1) un peu (a little), 2) beaucoup (a lot), 3) passionnément (passionately), 4) à la folie (madly), and 5) pas du tout (not at all).
Next up is Gandhi Bilel Djuna, better known as Maître Gims, or simply GIMS. He was born in Kinshasa, but grew up in Paris. Like Black M, he got his start as a member of the hip-hop collective Sexion d’Assaut.
French note: This song alludes to Jacques Brel, a Belgian singer-songwriter from the 1950s–1960s noted for his lyrical texts, whose “Ne me quitte pas” is referenced in an early hit by Maître Gims (“Bella”).
If you don’t speak French and are looking for something you can understand at least half of, the above song is a mix of French and English, with Sia singing the English lines.
And, finally, there is Soprano, né Saïd M’Roumbaba, who originally hails from Marseille (note the accent on the motivational coach in the first video) and is just brimming with positivity.
French note: The coach’s third step is called the accent circonflexe because that is the shape one’s arms make.
French note: Among other famous names, this song references the following French celebrities: soccer star Zinedine Zidane, actress Monica Bellucci, Olympic gold medalist Teddy Riner (judo), and actor Omar Sy.
And on that note… Je vous fais le coup du ninja!
*Note to email subscribers, there is embedded video in this post that may not appear in your email. Please click through to the actual post to see the complete list of selections.