Protège ton pouvoir.
Conserve ton savoir.
Protège ton histoire.
Préserve ta mémoire.
(Protect your power.
Conserve your knowledge.
Protect your history.
Preserve your memory.)
—Marcus Gad, “Pouvoir”
Did you think that French Kiss, ou Comment S’Ambiencer en Temps de Crise was all there was? Au contraire, mon frère. Here are some more songs I recently discovered, with a few lessons on geography.
First up, some French reggae artists speaking truth to power.
French note: Marcus Gad is singing about his native New Caledonia, an archipelago in the South Pacific. The status and terminology for what used to be referred to as the DOM-TOM (French overseas departments and territories) is changing all the time, nowhere more than in la Nouvelle-Calédonie, which has seen various independence movements and related unrest since the 1970s. Most recently, in 2018, voters rejected full independence and New Caledonia is a Collectivité sui generis, or special collectivity of France, with its people holding French citizenship and having representation in the French Parliament.
Above, the lead singer of the Paris-based Danakil, a reggae band that often explicitly takes on human rights issues, sings with Natty Jean, a reggae singer from Dakar, capital of le Sénégal.
French note: Although Wolof, not French, is the lingua franca of Senegal, especially in and around Dakar, French remains the official language of the country. For this reason, along with its strong musical heritage, many Senegalese artists (Youssou N’Dour, MC Solaar) can be found singing in French on the world stage.
French note: The pop-up labels that appear above each person lip-syncing to this song about judging people based on their appearance are as follows: Ellen, phys ed teacher; Frank, banker; Mohammad, music conservatory student; and Mike, veterinarian.
Speaking of not judging a book by its cover, the two lead singers of I Woks are Savoyards, that is, from la Savoie (like my family originally!), a French departément in the Alps, known more for its cute ski villages than for reggae. However, in this video they are walking through Belleville, which, for simplicity’s sake, let’s call the Brooklyn of Paris.
On est venu danser, oublier que tout va mal.
(We came to dance, to forget everything’s going badly.)
And now for something completely different, a song I found while looking for stuff related to France winning the 2018 World Cup (le Mondial). Tal is actually one of the singers that Marina Sofia recommended in the comments in my previous post on recent French music. I hadn’t made the connection until I went back through some of the songs I had set aside for future use.
French note: I’m not sure where Tal is starting off on her road trip through France. Based on the timbered house (maison à colombages) in the background and the snow, it is likely in the northeastern part of the country, but these types of houses can also be found in Normandy, Brittany, and the Auvergne, so who knows. What I do know is that she makes a stop in Marseille to pick up Soprano, featured in French Kiss, ou Comment S’Ambiencer en Temps de Crise.
In a similar vein of brotherhood and common humanity, here is Soprano with Black M. Two years later, Black M would go on to write another song about brotherhood and working together, this time with Youssou N’Dour for the official song of Les Lions, the national soccer team of Senegal.
French note: In French, the suffix -ot is used as a diminutive. For example, Charlie Chaplin, aka the Little Tramp, is known in France as Charlot. So the term frérot indicates little brother, kid brother, or even bro (but without any of the negative connotations sometimes associated with this term in English).
Le petit Guinéen chante pour le Sénégal
C’est la même chose
Sénégal, Guinée, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire
On est ensembles, Afrique de l’Ouest
(The little Guinean is singing for Senegal
It’s the same thing
Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire
We’re all together, West Africa)
—Black M, “Gainde (Les Lions)”
Speaking of the 2018 World Cup, because of the time difference, I watched most of the matches at the Alliance Française de San Francisco, which opened early on the days with French matches. Besides being conveniently located in my neighborhood, it provided the added bonus of a clearly pro-France crowd and broadcasting the games via TV5 with French announcers. To express my French pride, I usually wore the marinière my aunt bought me while we were traveling through Brittany.
French note: Originally worn by French sailors, or marins (hence the name), and generally associated with la Bretagne where many are made and sold, la marinière was first brought into regular play in the French fashion world by Coco Chanel. It re-emerged again in the 1960s with Yves Saint Laurent integrating the look into his haute couture collection and a number of other designers picking up the look, notably Jean-Paul Gaultier.
In any case, imagine my delight when I found a song dedicated to this most stereotypical of French garments, and one with excellent word play to boot. One example of this word play is “J’sais pas si t’es au courant”—a phrase that normally translates roughly as “I don’t know if you’re aware” but in this sense (following “L’océan nous emporte”), could be interpreted literally: “The ocean is carrying us away, (but) I don’t know if you are in the current.”
A “good” marinière is made of thick, tightly woven material. They are quite durable and last a long time and, in theory, could go from person to person as in the video. I don’t know if it is intentional, but at one point in the video we clearly see that this marinière is from Saint James, one of the best-known manufacturers of this type of shirt.
If Hoshi is more in the singer-songwriter tradition of Jacques Brel, Clara Luciani might be said to be carrying on the other great musical tradition of 1960s France: the pop-rock style known as Yé-Yé, popularized by the likes of Françoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan. And, since what’s good for the gander is good for the goose, let’s hear a little about sisterhood, shall we?
And, to close, something else completely different. I have no idea what this song from Franco-Moroccan rapper Lartiste is saying (and not just because half of it is in Portuguese), but I think we can all agree that it’s a banger.
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