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MUSIC

Eight current French-language musicians you need to hear

Looking to get into some current French-language music? Well, here are eight great acts to choose from, writes Emily Handley.

Eight current French-language musicians you need to hear
Parisian musicians L.E.J. Photo: AFP
You could say that French music has had a bad press over the years.
 
It doesn’t help that a huge chunk of the world now listens to British and American music, or to musicians who sing only in English. Quel dommage. 
 
So perhaps there isn’t much of an appetite for songs sung in French …. or is there?
 
The huge success of the singer Stromae in his native Belgium, France and the UK suggests that our interest in Francophone music is changing.
 
Or, at least, it’s expanding beyond humming along to Gallic songstress Vanessa Paradis and being united in our oh-so-British disapproval of Serge Gainsbourg whenever Je t’aime … moi non plus comes on.
 
Read on in case you need persuading that French music is about so much more than ambient film soundtracks and Édith Piaf.
 
1. HK et les Saltimbanks
 
This group, who count world music and klezmer music among their influences, appeared on the soundtrack of the French film Blue is the Warmest Colour.
 
On Lâche Rien, the song used on the soundtrack, is the perfect protest song. With its feverishly indignant lyrics, energetic accordion playing and an exuberant chorus complete with whooping, it’ll make you want to dance down the streets of Paris to the Place de la République clutching a brightly coloured protest banner. ¡No pasarán!
 
If you like this, why not try: The group’s cover of Juliette Gréco’s Sous le ciel de Paris or their song Sans haine, sans armes, sans violence?
 
 
2. Indila
 
A little different to the insanely danceable music of HK et les Saltimbanks, Indila's songs are a three-minute snapshot of high drama and romantic heartbreak to an electro accompaniment.
 
Also listen to: Boite En Argent or Tourner Dans Le Vide from her latest album Mini World. 
 
 
3. Stromae
 
His gangly frame, searingly direct lyrics and intense live performances have seen him compared to fellow Belgian singer Jacques Brel. 
 
So far, his songs have touched upon topics like:
  • The economic crisis
  • Divorce
  • Domestic violence
  • What love and romance means for the Facebook and Twitter generation.
Check out: Alors On Danse or Summertime for one of the most downbeat (but still very danceable) songs about summer possibly ever written.
 
And below is Formidable, which was so popular when it was released that it basically broke YouTube. 
 
 
4. Cœur de Pirate
 
Hailing from Montreal in French-speaking Canada, Cœur de Pirate (the pseudonym of Béatrice Martin) is a pianist and singer-songwriter.
 
Her lyrics are evocative lyrics and she plays the piano beautifully.
 
Try out: Her songs Printemps, Place de la République or Comme des Enfants (embedded below), which featured, appropriately enough, in a recent Pampers advert in the UK.
 
 
5. Louane
 
Louane, the stage name of Anne Peichert, starred in the French film La Famille Bélier as a teenager who interprets for her deaf parents and brother.
 
She sang in the film, and has since released an album of her own music and covers of material by the French singer Michel Sardou (on a side note, his joyous and crazily fast-paced song Les Lacs du Connemara appears to be an obligatory closing song for any party you ever go to in France, from family weddings and anniversaries to birthday nights out and student celebrations. Don’t say I didn’t warn you …)
 
Why not listen to: Jour 1 from her album, or her cover of Michel Sardou’s Je Vole.
 
 
6. Bénabar
 
The upbeat songs of Bénabar (real name Bruno Nicolini) make for a great summer soundtrack – and it’s easy to see what he means in Paris by Night when he admits that the best nights out are never planned. So true.
 
Have a listen to: His song Y’a Une Fille Qu’habite Chez Moi (below).
 
 
7. L.E.J.
 
Taken from the first initials of its three members, L.E.J. is made up of Parisian musicians Lucie, Élisa and Juliette. They released a fab close harmony cover of Tous les mêmes by Stromae in 2014 and haven't looked back (see below).  
 
Since then, they’ve turned their hand to Rolling in the Deep by Adele, Macklemore‘s Can’t Hold Us and brought out a cover of Seine-Saint-Denis Style by French rapper Grand Corps Malade.
 
Have a look at: Their cover of Get Lucky by Daft Punk.
 
 
8. Vincent Delerm
 
And finally…. With his salt-and-pepper hair and Woody Allen specs, the singer looks like an arty bohemian intellectual. The son of French author Philippe Delerm, Delerm Jnr. writes and performs his own songs and accompanies himself on the piano.
 
His first album, which came out in 2003, has an experimental feel to it, going from string quartet arrangements on his song Châtenay Malabry to playful twenties-style piano music on Fanny Ardant et Moi (see it below). 
 
Try: His song Tes Parents, which he improvises to with hilarious new lyrics here during a concert in Paris.
 
 
By Emily Handley, a self-confessed lover of France, who currently lives in the UK. Read her blog French Affliction here

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MUSIC

8 of French duo Daft Punk’s most memorable moments

One of the era's defining dancefloor acts hung up their helmets on Monday, as French electronic music stars Daft Punk announced their retirement in a typically enigmatic fashion with a video showing one of them exploding in a desert.

8 of French duo Daft Punk's most memorable moments
Photo: AFP

From Da Funk in 1995 to Get Lucky in 2013, Daft Punk became the torch-bearers for French house music across the globe, winning six Grammy awards and pioneering the monumental sound-and-light shows that came to characterise the electronic dance movement (EDM) of recent years.

They did so while almost never revealing their faces — the ubiquitous helmets became another much-copied trope of EDM stars, but also afforded Thomas Bangalter, 46, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 47, a freedom from the fame that quickly encircled them.

“We have daily lives that are a lot more normal than the lives of artists who have the same level of fame as us, but who might be attached to being physically recognised,” Bangalter said in a rare authorised documentary by the BBC in 2015.

Here are some of the highlights of their career – although for our money nothing will beat the French army band’s performance of a Daft Punk medley at the Bastille Day celebrations in 2017, in front of president Emmanuel Macron and a plainly bemused Donald Trump.

1. “Daft punky thrash”

Bangalter and Homem-Christo met at school in Paris before an inauspicious start in music with the rock band Darlin’, which also featured a future member of the French indie band Phoenix.

One review in the British music press dismissed the band as “daft punky thrash” — which struck a chord with them.

Reemerging as an electronic outfit, they met with instant success.

This interview from 1995 is one of the few images of their faces:

2. Their signature look in “Around the World”

Early singles “Da Funk” and “Around the World” became club fixtures, and led to massive sales for their debut album “Homework” in 1997.

It was in the video for “Around the World” that they first donned the helmets that would become their signature look. It mirrored the tight control they exercised over every part of their career, which included ownership of their master recordings.

3. “One More Time”

They followed up with the even more successful “Discovery” in 2001, which spawned the hits “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.

There were some distinctively left-field choices in the years that followed, including producing the 2003 film “Interstella 5555” by Japanese anime master Leiji Matsumoto, which featured music from “Discovery”.

4. Human After All

While their next album in 2005, a more sombre “Human After All”, received mixed reviews, these were quickly forgotten amid the euphoria of their live shows over the next two years.

This included a headline appearance at US festival Coachella in 2006, performed inside a giant LED pyramid. EDM fans still speak about it with an almost religious reverence.

5. Tron soundtrack

In 2010, they released a soundtrack to the Disney reboot of Tron, which picked up a Grammy nomination.

6. “Random Access Memories”

But no one predicted the massive success of their last album, 2013’s “Random Access Memories”, for which they gave up their usual makeshift home rig for a full commercial studio– and used entirely live instruments.

The resulting work dominated album-of-the-year lists and helped lift their total worldwide sales to 12 million. It won four Grammies the following year including record of the year for “Get Lucky”, the millions-selling lead single featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

Their appearance at the Grammy Awards show was their last public appearance for three years.

7. “I Feel It Coming”

They showed up one more time for the Grammy ceremony in 2017, alongside The Weeknd, after collaborating on the Canadian artist’s most recent album.

Despite the Twittersphere erupting in excitement last month amid rumours they would rejoin The Weeknd for the Super Bowl half-time show, that did not in the end materialise. 

8. “Epilogue”

The video titled “Epilogue” announcing their split used footage from their cult 2006 film “Electroma” in which one of the robots sets the auto-destruct of the other.

A cutaway then reads “1993-2021” with two robot hands making a circle around a sunset.

Their publicist, Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the news to AFP by email, without giving a reason for the split.

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