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Friday, 28 August 2015

Friday's French music break - Cats on Trees and Calogero, "Jimmy"

This week's Friday's French music break is from two artists previously featured.

The first is Calogero, is a stalwort of the French music scene who needs little or no introduction to readers in France as he has been around, writing and recording, for the past couple of decades.

Calogero (screenshot RTL performance)

The other is the Toulouse duo of Nina Goern and Yohan Hennequin who are better known as Cats on Trees and rose to prominence with their 2013 hit "Siren's call".

Nina Goern and Yohan Hennequin - Cats on Trees

 Together they've come up with a seamless match in the form of the single "Jimmy".

The 44-year-old Calogero's music is instantly recognisable and he has won several awards including three Victoires de la musique - the French equivalent of the Grammys - for best male artist (2004) and twice for Best original song (2005 with "Si seulement je pouvais lui manquer" and 2015 for "Un jour au mauvais endroit").

Throughout the years, Calogero has teamed up with, and/or (more often) written for,  a number of artists, among them Grand Corps Malade, François Hardy, Pascal Obispo and (inevitably perhaps, as just about every French composer has) Johnny Hallyday.

Given his track record as a successful writer, it's perhaps surprising, if not unusual, that Calogero agreed to accompany the duo on their own composition.

Especially as it failed to make its mark on the charts first time around when Goern and Hennequin released it in 2014.

But Calogero was definitely "up for it" as, according to Cats on Trees' official site, the trio became friends following several joint television and festival appearances.

Goern and Hennequin (who normally write and record in English)  reworked the song to include some French voilà, quoi.

The result - not only a delightfully melodic recording but fitting hit material too.

Enjoy et bon week-end.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Life's a beach for Saudi king

What do you do if you're the king of Saudi Arabia holidaying at your private villa on the Côte d'Azur in the south of France for a month with an entourage of around a 1,000 people and you discover there's a public beach (albeit small) at the foot of where you're staying?

The answer is simple really.

You flout the laws of the land, start constructing your own personal lift (after all, it would be too stressful to have to walk) and block access for anyone else.

It's a story that has been brewing for the past fortnight when French national media began reporting that preparations were underway for the impending one-month-long stay of the king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, at his luxury villa in the town of Vallauris.

"The White Palace on the water", Vallauris (screenshot BBC news report)

 To avoid any unwanted hoi polloi upsetting the king's holiday plans and to ensure his privacy and security (and that of his family), the Mirandole beach at the foot of the villa was closed temporarily while the necessary construction work (without permits) was undertaken.

Some locals, upset by the manner in which a public beach seemed to have been commandeered without any consultation  were concerned that the closure would be extended for the duration of king's visit.

It's a fear that has become a reality as, even though  Michelle Salucki, the mayor of Vallauris, put a temporary stop to the work and wrote to the French president, François Hollande, to argue against the de facto privatisation of public property, she was overruled by higher powers with the sous-préfet, Philippe Castanet, invoking the need to provide security for a visiting head of state and Hollande...well, not reacting at all.

Yes, it's all a question of security...oh and the not-so-small matter of purchasing power.

Cash rich and shopping happy Saudis apparently come with the reputation of spending - big time.

And several reports have appeared on French telly showing how pleased local (luxury, of course) shop owners are at the prospect of all that lovely lolly passing through their hands.

Sod principles and the fact that public beaches are exactly that - public - and supposedly accessible (although there are plenty of other exceptions that prove the rule) to all.

And ditto for the petition that has so far attracted over 100,000 signatures insisting that the beach should be "available for the benefit of all".

"I'm talking about the equality of citizens before the law and the respect of coastal law," local councillor Jean-Noel Falcou said in  BBC news report (see, this story has captured the interest of media outside of France).

"A natural area, a public beach, is an inalienable. It's part of our common property. The point we wanted to make is that not everything can be bought."

Sadly Monsieur Falcou, it appears it can if the power behind the money is one authorities don't wish to offend.

Vallauris: la famille royale saoudienne veut... par afp

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday's French music break - Lisa Angell, "N'oubliez pas"

France wins the Eurovision Song Contest after 38 year long wait.

Well, that might well be the dream of France Télévisions executives who, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen a song that could have sealed victory several decades ago.

But that "dream" risks becoming a repeat nightmare of last year's final place entry when Twin Twin (who?) managed just two measly points.

Hoping for better things (well, let's face it, they could hardly get worse) France has plumped for another act largely unknown to the domestic audience to fly the tricolore at this year's annual "music" fest to be held in Vienna, Austria.

Lisa Angell will warble her way to Eurovision obscurity with the perhaps worryingly premonitive "N'oubliez pas" ("Don't forget").

Lisa Angell (screenshot from "N'oubliez pas")

Yep, while 21 of the 27 countries appearing in the final have opted to sing in the musical lingua franca of English (or "la la" approximative versions of it anyway), France has decided steadfastly to buck the trend by insisting on sending someone along singing a "proper" French entry...and that means in French.

Not that "la langue de Molière" will help improve Angell's chances though, as the song is dated, probably lacking in real appeal and instantly forgettable the moment it has finished.

And that can be an important element in Eurovision voting (you can decide for yourselves how weighted and unfair/fair it might be, there has been much...far too much...written on that subject)

as Angell will be the second act to take to the stage on Saturday and might well have become a foggy memory by the time all 27 countries have "done their stuff".

"Gifted with a powerful voice" and "extremely proud and happy to represent her country...with a song of hope and peace, of courage and solidarity," Angell may well be.

But that's unlikely to impress the millions who'll be watching the televised marathon, and France looks set to wait a little (lot) longer for that seemingly evasive Eurovision win.

Which is a shame, as there is so much (young) talent around that could have reflected the true nature and variety of the French music scene, such as The Avener, Cats on Trees, Marina Kaye, Louane Emera, Kendji Girac, Christina and the name just a few.

But hey. This is Eurovision - and more often than not it's the lowest common denominator that counts which, come to think of it, is probably the only thing to be said in Angell's favour.

Take a listen.

Try not to yawn.

And "enjoy" this week's Friday's French music break.

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