Category Archives: Music

Female French Jazz Artists

As the air grows crisp and the sun descends earlier each day, I feel more and more like listening to jazz. Recently, I have discovered several musicians and vocalists, all female and all French, who I wholeheartedly believe are worth sharing. Here they are, in no particular order…

Airelle Besson

One of few female trumpetists to reach so high a standing, Besson began playing this “masculine” instrument at 7 years of age, followed by the violin at age 9. During her youth she studied music at Oxford, followed by municipal conservatories in Paris. Having worked with a variety of musicians from New York trumpetist Ingrid Jenson to guitarist Pierre Durand, her latest solo album Prélude (available on iTunes) was recorded with Brazilian guitarist Nelson Veras, which I discovered on the blog Lost in Arles. The album was recorded in Arles.

Visit her website for more information.

Cécile McLorin Salvant

I first heard her Billie Holiday-esque voice on a Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross. Born in Miami to a French mother and a Haitian father, McLorin Salvant began studying classical piano at 5 and singing at 8 years old. At first interested in classical singing and influenced greatly by Sarah Vaughan, she moved to Aix-en-Provence in her late teens to study jazz under musician and teacher Jean-François Bonnel. She has won several awards for her music, and the album WomanChild was nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2014.

McLorin Salvant sings in her native French, English and Spanish.

Visit her website for more information.

Véronique Hermann Sambin

Hermann Sambin grew up in Guadeloupe, raised by parents who listened to a lot of international music. She began playing piano as a young girl and singing in French. Singing in Creole came later on, as her parents wanted her to learn French first. At 17 she moved to Paris, and eventually formed a band and found a musical director with whom she produced Ròz Jériko, a “complete success” according to the French newspaper Le Monde. She has performed at festivals all over France and the West Indies. Her latest album, Basalte, was released in 2012.

Visit her website for more information.

If you are interested in discovering more jazz, TSF Jazz is a Paris-based radio station available to stream online. While living in Paris I discovered countless jazz musicians through listening to this station, including Melody Gardot, Krystle Warren and Ibrahim Maalouf, to name just a few.

For a sample of the kind of music they play, check out the album Summer of Jazz 2015 TSF Jazz available on iTunes.

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015

Christine and the Queens: Freedom to be Your Authentic Self

The first time I both heard and saw Christine and the Queens was through a comment in one of my LinkedIn groups. I had written a blog post about Indila, a popular French chanteuse, and someone suggested I check out this French group as well. The link took me to the music video of their hit song “Christine.”

Photo credit to Youtube.com

Photo credit to Youtube.com

I was immediately mesmerized by the blue lighting, synthesized beat and modern dancing that proceeded to take place atop a black cube. As soon as “Christine” began singing, I fell in love with her haunting, gravely yet smooth voice. As I began to listen to the lyrics, I understood that this was not your typical pop music.

Born Héloïse Letissier in Nantes in 1988, she studied theatre at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon before going to Paris to finish her studies. This entailed a project entitled Christine and the Queens, where she combined music, performance, video, photography and drawings. The “Queens” portion comes from time spent in London where Héloïse was inspired by the artistic performances of several drag queens who now form part of her group.

Photo credit to Youtube.com

Photo credit to Youtube.com

Influenced by the dance moves of Michael Jackson and David Bowie, she often wears a signature androgynous suit during performances so as not to appear a symbol of sexuality. During an interview with pitchfork.com, Christine admits “The gender question has always obsessed me.” A self-described bisexual, she observed the difference in the presence of a male musician and a female musician, being that “male rock stars are sexy because they desire you first.” She decided that she wanted to embody this role reversal. Why couldn’t she, as a women, be the desirer instead of the desired? Her solution was, as the interviewer put it, this: “If you want to be the subject but are viewed as the object, why not be the object that reflects the subject back?”

Image credit to Lemonde.fr

Photo credit to Lemonde.fr

With songs such as iT (about a woman wanting to be man) and The Loving Cup (about a young man who secretly dresses up in drag and goes out to clubs), Christine gives listeners the freedom to be whoever they want to be and to celebrate that within the song. She may be doing the singing and dancing, but she’s holding a mirror that’s reflecting back on you. And what do you see in the mirror? Whichever self you want to.

Which artist (French, American, English or otherwise) has inspired you to be your most authentic self?

© Jessica’s Franglais 2015

Indila: The New Face of French Pop Music?

After class one day, a student shared a music video with me of a doe-eyed, ethnically mysterious young woman singing her heart out as she stumbles through Paris in a jean jacket and a little white dress, hurting and lost. I was struck at once by her mellifluous voice, the catchiness of the music and the stunning panoramic views of La Ville Lumière (The City of Light). I thanked the girl and wondered to myself: who is this charming chanteuse?

Wikipedia tells us that thirty year old Indila, born Adila Sedraïa, was born in Paris and is of Cambodian, Indian, Algerian and Egyptian decent. She has collaborated with French pop, rap and R&B artists such as Soprano, Patrick Bruel and Youssoupha among others. Indila is also married to songwriter and producer DJ Scalpovitch.

As it turns out, I’m a little late to the party. Europe already loves her! In 2014, she was voted best French artist by MTV Europe Music awards and also nominated for best European artist. In 2015, her album Mini World won album of the year and her song “Dernière Danse,” whose video I watched with my student was nominated for best music video by Victoires de la Musique (in France). This song was also nominated for best francophone song of the year in 2014 by NRJ Music awards. Pas mal!

From public.fr

From public.fr

I have taught the lyrics and shown the music video to my students in French 1 and French 2 and they absolutely adore it. Some of them even sing, and one has offered to record an a capella version of it to play for the class. Music is a great way to get students excited about learning a foreign language. Indila also has other music videos for her songs, such as Tourner dans le vide,” “Love Story” and “SOS.” All are catchy and school-appropriate. You will notice some common themes throughout the videos, such as the fact that she always wears a white dress.

Indila represents the new face of France, which includes people from all different ethnic backgrounds. I encourage you to watch the music videos linked above, share with your friends or classes and visit her website.

If you are interested in learning more about my experiences traveling and living in France, please visit Sylvaine Nuccio‘s site for an interview I did about my book. Or, for a review of my book, please visit The French Village Diaries.

Bonne écoute/Happy listening and bonne lecture/Happy reading!

Who is your favorite francophone artist?

© 2015 Jessica’s Franglais