Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Eurovision week - Sébastien Tellier

Saturday is the Eurovision Song Contest, normally the only occasion the good folks in the UK get to hear anything from outside the usual UK/US playlist. And laugh at it.

Some countries take it way too seriously, some get it right. France normally get it right most of the time, so I'll list a couple of good ones in the build-up to Saturday.

Here's the first - Sébastien Tellier from 2008. Does it get any cooler that arriving on stage by golf cart?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Paul Gray - Slipknot in France

Saddened to hear this morning the death of Slipknot bass player Paul Gray.

Here's a piece I wrote this morning >

Following the release of 'All Hope is Gone' in 2008, I interviewed Shawn and Chris from the band when they played Glasgow's SECC arena in Dec '08, ( Watch the interview here > ) and they returned to Europe the following year to play some of the biggest festivals.

Here's some footage of them playing at the Les Eurockéennes festival in Belfort, their most recent gig in France:

OK, obviously not a French band, but I'm keeping the definition of what's relevant to this blog as wide as possible. I aim to be inclusive, rather than operate some kind of policy that keeps things I like off the picture.

French band? They're here. Band singing in French ? Good enough. Some kind of vague French connection? Still making the grade!

Charts and some rap

I aim to keep an eye over the Franch charts, but while charts used to be a fairly straightforward matter of seeing what was the biggest selling single each week, the situation has in recent years become just a little bit more fluid.

While the syndicat national de l'édition phonographique (SNEP) compiles the 'official' charts, there's no doubt that the likes of iTunes give a pretty accurate picture of what people are listeining to as well, and the two can be quite different.

For example, SNEP currently puts Justin Beiber & Ludacris 'Baby' at number one, and Stromae's 'Alors on Dance' at two, neither are in the iTunes French top 10, although Alors... is in the top ten or number one in ten other European countries, although not the UK obviously.

Meanwhile, Désolé by rappers Sexion d'Assaut is the iTunes number one, and they're got a second tune in the top 10, Wati By Night, at number nine.

Obviosuly both charts are pretty heavy on the old Anglo-American music (mostly American rather than Anglo) that we hear in the UK regularly - Katy Perry, Sean Paul, Taio Cruz, Lady Gaga (etc), but there's still plenty of Francophone talent being appreciated in France.

So here's a version of Désolé live on Paris hip hop/R&B radio station

I know rap's not everyone's cup of tea, but frankly I'm in awe of anyone who can do what French rappers can do with the language!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Girls Aloud (en francais)

Today's update is a quick one, with something to put a smile on your face for the weekend; the first of an occasional series of 'when English speaking acts sing in French.'

May need to get a snappier title than that...

So here's Girls Aloud with a version of I Don't Speak French - in French.

Incidentally, apparently they don't and had to learn the song phonetically.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Magma, film appearance from 1972

Today's offering is a clip of French progressive band Magma, appearing in a 1972 film.

Magma is not exactly easy listening, performing the majority of their songs in their own language - Kobaian - and developing hugely ambitious and complicated concept works.

The band centres on drummer Christan Vander, and were originally inspired by John Coltrane's firey jazz explorations. Over the decades they have developed a unique sound that manages to reference free jazz, modern classical and soul as well as incredibly ambitious

They influenced a whole sub genre of music, a bombastic and energetic type of progressive roq called zeuhl (from the word meaning 'celestial' in Kobaian) including bands like Univers Zero from Belgium and Ruins from Japan.

Certainly a long way from the rather bloodless pastoral whimsy that seemed to inform much of the British progressive scene at the time.

The clip is from the movie "Moi Y En A Vouloir Des Sous". The track has never been released officially, which is extraordinary given how good it is.

The band are still very much active, and last year produced a 12-disc box set collecting their complete studio albums along with two discs of rarities. They also released the album Emehntehtt-Re, completing a trilogy that they began in the 70s with the album Kohntarkosz and continue to play live, although with a very different line up from the 70s version of the band, Vander and wife Stalla being the only constants in the line-up.

For more Magma and magma-influenced Zeuhl bands go to this fantastic french blog page >>

There will be more Magma on the site in the future that's for sure.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

May 19 - Fête de saint Yves

Apologies for the way too long since last update, but I'm now hoping for a daily Mon-Fri quick update and video, so that there's something for your French listening pleasure here regularly.

So today - May 19 - is the fasival of St Yves, patron saint of Brittany, so an excuse for something appropriate. So the national anthem of Brittany is today's choice; Bro gozh ma zadou

This vesion is by Breton folk legends Tri Yann.

The song is of course famililar to many, having the same tune as 'Land of my fathers', the Welsh national anthem. The words are - albeit in Breton rather than Welsh - similar in meaning.

The Breton lyrics were written by Breton nationalist François Jaffrennou who translated the Welsh song into Breton. It became the national anthem in 1903, a mark of friendship and shared culture

Here is a more modern take on the song by Alan Stivell:

While the festival of St Yves is not officially recognised as a 'jour férié' in France, there are moves afoot to increase the recognition of the day, as an international celebration of Breton culture.

2010 sees events taking place in Tokyo, Paris, Beijing and of course, in Brittany. Events are not just limited to today, and have been taking place - officially - from the 14th to the 23rd.

With a wide Breton diaspora and thousands around the world who may not Breton by birth but want to celebrate its culture, it could hopefully become a significant international event. St Patrick's Day celebrates the Irish influence around the world, St David's day is an important day in Wales, and St Andrew's Day marks Scotland's place in the world, so it's probably only right the Brittany gets the recognition it deserves.

More information on fete de la Bretagne here >>