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French Pop Song of the Week: “La Corrida” by Francis Cabrel

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music poetry translation world literature on April 18, 2010


Although Francis Cabrel has been one of the best-selling songwriters in France since the late 1970s, he’s hardly had the typical life of a celebrity. Raised in the village of Astaffort, in the southwestern French department of Lot-et-Garonne, he still lives there with his longtime wife, Mariette. His first hit, “Petite Marie” (“Little Marie”; 1977), was dedicated to her.

Below is a video of Francis Cabrel performing “La Corrida” (“Bullfighting”), a song from his 1994 album Samedi soir sur la terre (“Saturday Night on Earth”), which sold three million copies. I love the tall, French windows at the back of the stage.

The lyrics describe the horror of bullfighting from the point of view of the bull, and the song shares with Cabrel’s other music a dreamlike quality and a yearning to say something that feels essential. Andalousie (Andalusia), mentioned below in the lyrics and translation, is a region in southern Spain known for bullfighting. The French expression “dormer sur ses deux oreilles” (“to sleep on both ears”) means to sleep deeply. In the song it’s used as a pun. After killing a bull the bullfighter is sometimes given its ears as a gift.

Francis Cabrel – La corrida envoyé par dimigardien. – Regardez la dernière sélection musicale.

La Corrida

By Francis Cabrel

Depuis le temps que je patiente
Dans cette chambre noire
J’entends qu’on s’amuse et qu’on chante
Au bout du couloir
Quelqu’un a touché le verrou
Et j’ai plongé vers le grand jour
J’ai vu les fanfares, les barrières
Et les gens autour

Dans les premiers moments j’ai cru
Qu’il fallait seulement se défendre
Mais cette place est sans issue
Je commence à comprendre
Ils ont refermé derrière moi
Ils ont eu peur que je recule
Je vais bien finir par l’avoir
Cette danseuse ridicule…

Est-ce que ce monde est sérieux ?
Est-ce que ce monde est sérieux ?

Andalousie je me souviens
Les prairies bordées de cactus
Je ne vais pas trembler devant
Ce pantin, ce minus !
Je vais l’attraper, lui et son chapeau
Les faire tourner comme un soleil
Ce soir la femme du torero
Dormira sur ses deux oreilles

Est-ce que ce monde est sérieux ?
Est-ce que ce monde est sérieux ?

J’en ai poursuivi des fantômes
Presque touché leurs ballerines
Ils ont frappé fort dans mon cou
Pour que je m’incline
Ils sortent d’où ces acrobates
Avec leurs costumes de papier ?
J’ai jamais appris à me battre
Contre des poupées

Sentir le sable sous ma tête
C’est fou comme ça peut faire du bien
J’ai prié pour que tout s’arrête
Andalousie je me souviens
Je les entends rire comme je râle
Je les vois danser comme je succombe
Je pensais pas qu’on puisse autant
S’amuser autour d’une tombe

Est-ce que ce monde est sérieux ?
Est-ce que ce monde est sérieux ?

Si, si, hombre, hombre
Baila, baila
Hay que bailar de nuevo
Y mataremos otros
Otras vidas, otros toros
Y mataremos otros
Venga, venga a bailar…
Y mataremos otros

During the time I was waiting
In this dark room
I heard people having fun and singing
At the end of the corridor
Someone put his hand on the lock
And I dove into the daylight
I saw the commotion, the gates
And the people all around

At first I believed
I needed only to defend myself
But this place with no exit
I’m beginning to understand
They locked up behind me
They were afraid I was going back
I’m just going to end up doing
This ridiculous pastime . . .

Are these people serious?
Are these people serious?

Andalusia I remember
The meadows lined with cacti
I’m not going to tremble before
This nobody, this moron!
I’m going to catch him, him and his hat
Make them spin like a sun
This evening the bullfighter’s wife
Will sleep on both ears

Are these people serious?
Are these people serious?

I pursued their ghosts
Almost touched their ballerina shoes
They struck hard on my neck
So that I’d bow down
Where did these acrobats come from
With their paper costumes?
I never learned to fight
Against dolls

To feel the sand under my head
It’s crazy how good it can feel
I prayed so that everything would stop
Andalusia I remember
I hear them laugh as I groan
I see them dance as I die
I didn’t think anyone could have so much
fun gathered around a grave

Are these people serious?
Are these people serious?

Yes, yes, man, man
Dance, dance
You have to dance again
And we’ll kill others
Other lives, other bulls
And we’ll kill others
Come, come and dance . . .
And we’ll kill others


Categories: music, poetry, translation, world literature | 1 Comment »

One Response to “French Pop Song of the Week: “La Corrida” by Francis Cabrel”

  1. Megan Says:
    November 3rd, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Thank you for posting French pop songs of the week. I downloaded 3 of the albums from Amazon (this one, Vanessa Paradis, and Mickey 3d). I’ve been searching for French music and was having a difficult time because all that came up was opera or marches, and Carla Bruni – which I surprisingly really like. I’m a student of French and listening to music in the language helps with pronunciation (I hope) and comprehension, plus it’s really great music!