Monday, 20 February 2012
Alan Stivell: A l'Olympia 40th anniversary
Breton musician Alan Stivell has marked the 40th anniversary of his A l'Olympia album and concert with a special show in Paris.
On February 16 he played a special show at the Olympia venue in Paris, with guests Nolwenn Leroy and guitarist Dan Ar Braz among others.
Stivell's 1972 album marked a turning point in the mainstream popularity of Breton music, taking it from a specialised folk audience to a more widespread audience.
The album showed that Breton music not only had a heritage, but also had a future.
The release also came at the prefect time, coming as it did at a time when an increased interest in celtic culture was developing and when a rock audience, by this point well versed in more progressive musical developments, was able to embrace more sophisticated ideas.
The Breton language, which must have been unfamiliar to many who bought the album, was unlikely to have been much of an obstacle to the sophisticated early 70s rock fan. Remember that this was an era when Magma - France's biggest prog band - was performing in Kobain, their own language.
The fact that it was also a live album would also have been in its favour, as during that era the live album was a marker of musical authenticity, allowing the artist to present their work in its natural environment and untainted by the commercial pressures and compromises of the studio.
An anniversary of a recording that marked a revival of Breton culture gives an opportunity to reflect on how things have changed in the years since.
While in matters of politics there has been no dramatic changes - Brittany is no closer to Independence than it was in 1972, unlike in Scotland where a referendum on the issue is imminent - there's no denying that Breton culture is now not only accepted in France but it is also a source of pride in Brittany itself.
Alan Stivell has released a 2CD collection that combines a remastered version of the A l'Olympia with a disc that features a selection of his best known songs from his long career.