Saturday, 22 December 2018

Damien Saez: #humanite & à Dieu

The dust has barely settled on the release of Damien Saez's remarkable #humanité album, than a new track emerges ahead of next year's à Dieu collection.

I couldn't help but notice that the day after  #humanité was released, France was consumed by widespread social unrest under the banner of the Gilets Jaunes movement. Coincidence?

Well, perhaps not. While Saez was hardly behind what went on, and people didn't really take to the streets inspired by his words, it is true that Saez taps into the unrest and unease of contemporary society. He articulates a malaise that affects many, but which too may refuse to acknowledge even exists.

It has many facets and names; inequality, exclusion, materialism, consumerism, elitism, along with old fashioned ailments like racism, poverty and unemployment. There is no one overall name for the problem, but it has a wide range of symptoms, and as is always the case, it is those who have the least who are suffering the most.

Saez is aware of the times and the undercurrent of tension that the situation has created. But he's no simple protest singer, there are no slogans or easy solutions in his work - although many of his lyrics would make a decent banner at a demonstration. Instead he looks a wider picture, through a poetic lens, at the catacysm that ranges in scale from international economics of inequality to the personal crisis of précarité.

His Le Manifeste: Lulu album from 2017 articulates his agenda: "Des mots d'amour contre un empire."

As well as pointing the finger at the guilty, he questions our own involvement. Are we passively collaborating with those involved, or through wilful ignorance contributing to our own situation? There are no easy answers, and Saez to his credit makes no attempt to parcel it all up and give us a fake Hollywood happy ending.

The anger that fuelled the Gilets Jaunes is the same anger that informs much of Saez's work.

I've long considered Saez one of the most important French musical artists at work today, and his recent work builds has only confirmed that to these ears.

Next year sees a new album entitled à Dieu, but while some fans drew a conclusion that this suggested the end of his career, tour dates across France at the end of 2019 - including a show at Bercy on December 3 - suggests this is far from the case.

Faced with times like these we need artists like Saez more than ever.

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