Tag Archives | France

If Zaz was busking you would definitely give her a franc

Zaz is a modern French singer who you simply must know….
“Chanson” literally means “song,” but when used to refer to the genre of French vocal song and singers, the term broadly cover French musicians from epic Old French “chanson de geste” to 12th and 13th century lyric poems known as “grand chant,” to Burgundian chansons of the 14th and 15th centuries, to 15th and 16th century Parisian chansons, all the way through French chansons of today. Since the early 20th century the term “chanson” has broadened to encompass almost all vocal music from France, from playful music hall vaudeville of the kind Maurice Chevalier sang and which thrived in Paris between World Wars I and II through modern French “chanteuses” (female chanson singers) of the ’60s and ’70s like the Egyptian-Italian born, French-raised Dalida, all the way up to modern French-language singers like Carla Bruni. All Around This World loves current French chanteuse is Isabelle Geffroy, who is known by her nickname, ZAZ. We know you’ll enjoy this video of her busking with her hit “Je veux.”

Three-Fingered Lightening

Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt put France on the global map of jazz.
In the mid-1920s Paris was a global hub of jazz. African-American jazz performers like vocalist Josephine Baker and trombonist and bandleader Sidney Bichet took residence there and inspired generations of French musicians to look across the Atlantic for their music, all the way to the jazz clubs of New York or New Orleans. Among those inspired were Belgian “Gypsy” guitarist Django Reinhardt and French violinist Stephane Grapelli. In 1934 they joined with other accomplished musicians in the “Quintette du Hot Club de France,” a combo that pioneered an exuberant and distinctly jazz from France known as manouche (“gypsy swing.”) As you may be able to see in this video, Reinhardt only had full use of three fingers on his left hand, the fourth and fifth having been damaged in a fire, hence the nickname “Three-Fingered Lightening.”

France’s ancient organum

One of the earliest documented forms of music in Europe is the French organum, a Gregorian chant that features a base and a second voice that sings the same melody parallel to the first at a constant interval. 
The French organum comes from the Middle Ages (the 5th century to the 15th century), as do early troubadour songs written in the southern French language of Occitan, trouvère songs–similar to troubadour songs but from northern France and written in French, and a kind of song called the motet, a harmonious chant-based form that which broke new cultural ground by blending the sacred and the secular. Watch the example in this video, and enjoy!

The Spanish Irishman

Is Carlos Nuñez really a “Spanish Irishman?”

The music of Spain varies from region to region, from community to community, probably even from neighborhood to neighborhood. In Galicia, in Spain’s far northeast, where the Celts ruled for centuries until the Romans supplanted them in 19 B.C. Galician music still retains a Celtic character and features the gaita, which is similar to Scottish bagpipes, the tamboril, which is a Celtic snare drum, and a Celtic flute known as the requinta Galega. Galica is home to the top-notch gaita player Carlos Nuñez, who you’ll see in this video celebrating his Galician-Celtic heritage and who is known, according to the biography on his website, as “The Seventh Chieftain” or, as this video describes him, “The Spanish Irishman.”

Is Jacques Brel alive and well?

Jacques Brel may not exactly be alive and well and living in Paris, but he is still one of our favorite French-language singers of all time.

Brel was a Belgian songwriter and performer whose uniquely insightful, highly literate, simultaneously refined and passionate compositions made him an international star in the ’50s and ’60s. Brel sang mainly in French throughout his career, and he was most popular in France and in French-speaking parts of the world, but musicians from many countries translated and reinterpreted his songs. Brel grew weary of performing music and retired from the concert circuit in 1967 to focus on making films. He did appear in the film version of the 1969 Off-Broadway review Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, which features English-language versions of nearly 30 of his songs. Brel pulled back from his film work in the early ’70s when he fell ill with lung cancer. Brel spent the last few years of his life sailing around the world on a yacht and living with his wife in the Marquesas Islands.

For with such honesty, honestly I’ll always cherish you

“Douce Dame Jolie” is one of the best-known French songs of all time, and an old one at that. It’s a love song from the 14th century by French composer Guillaume de Machaut. The translation on Wikipedia gushes with romance: “Sweet, lovely lady, for God’s sake do not think, that any has sovereignty, over my heart, but you alone. For always, without treachery
Cherished have I you, and humbly all the days of my life served without base thoughts.
Alas, I am left begging for hope and relief, for my joy is at its end without your compassion.” Our version has fewer “bast thoughts”:

Douce dame jolie. How could you believe That there could ever be Another one I love?
For with such honesty, honestly I’ll always cherish you
For with such honesty, humbly I’ll always cherish you.

Faranspil’s “Douce Dame Jolie”

German Medieval folk band, Faranspil, plays really old French music too.
In the 14th century (the Late Middle Ages) France became the home of a controversial polyphonic style called Ars Nova, which was more expressive than church music of the previous centuries and wove secular music even more seamlessly into the Church. “Douce Dame Jolie,” which we sing in class, is an Ars Nova song by composer Guillaume de Machaut. This version by German “Medieval Balkan Folk” band Faranspil is pretty darned great.

The Basques Dance and Dance and Dance

Is Basque dancing the best dancing?
The Basques are one of Europe’s most unique ethnic groups — linguistically, culturally and politically distinct. Toward the end of the 19th century Basques both in Spain and France rallied behind their language and shared culture and began to talk seriously of breaking away from Spain and France to form their own nation. Nationalist leaders very consciously promoted speaking and creating music in the Basque language as a means of uniting Basque people and stirring pride in the uniqueness of their homeland. From 1939 to 1975 the dictatorial government of General Francisco Franco outlawed the Basque language, but Basques maintained their language, music and folk dances defiantly in private. Today Basques are free to sing, speak their language and enjoy Basque dancing as in this video! Still, the Spanish and French governments still don’t look kindly on the idea of Basque independence.