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French Pop Song of the Week: Sean Lennon’s French Duo

posted November 23, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature

Last month the world wished John Lennon a happy seventieth birthday. Yoko Ono invited fans to upload video tributes to John, and as if they knew him personally, many did, though some were not even born when he was shot in 1980 in New York City. And people also watched old videos of John singing and musing on topics of the day.

Those who really knew him were his friends and family, including Sean Lennon, his son with Yoko. This week’s French pop song of the week, “L’éclipse,” is a French remix of Sean Lennon’s song “Parachute.” Sean, who speaks French, collaborated on the remix with French singer M (Matthieu Chadid), and the video below has a kind of offbeat humor Sean’s father was known for. Sean is wearing glasses and a hat.

Also below is a translation of the French lyrics (which differ from the English version). “Sauter du coq à l’âne” (”to jump from rooster to donkey”) is a French expression meaning “to jump from one subject to another.”

Sean Lennon & -M- l’éclipse
envoyé par LodanDruid. – Clip, interview et concert.

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French Pop Song of the Week: In Arabic, from Souad Massi

posted October 6, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music


France, as a center of wealth and culture, has for many years been a destination for immigrants, allowing it to absorb outside influences and, as a result, continually reinvent itself. Although some immigrants, especially those of North African origin, have had difficulty integrating into French life, there is a more hopeful side to this story. As in the United States, many people in France are committed to their country’s tradition of human rights and being a safe haven for foreigners. And France benefits economically and culturally from the energy and talent of its foreign-born citizens, as well as those who, despite being born in France and thus being French, are sometimes seen as other because of their family origins.

Such is the theme of this week’s featured pop star, Souad Massi. Born in Algeria in 1972, Massi had an eclectic musical background. Her parents loved traditional Algerian, French pop, and American soul music. Several of her family members played jazz. She learned guitar at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Alger and soon became known as a modern, passionate singer—a politically dangerous image at the time in Algeria. After an artistic director of Universal Music discovered her in 1999 at a French festival of Algerian women, she moved to France. Her music—usually in Arabic, sometimes in French, and occasionally in English—has been described as a blending of Algerian, French, and “Anglo-Saxon” musical traditions.

Below is a video of Massi singing “Talit El Bir.” It’s a longer, more developed version of a song that appears on her third Album, Mesk Elil (“Honeysuckle,” 2006). The lyrics are in Arabic, and she begins by saying in French, “Vous nous aidez un peu si vous avez envie. Je force pas.” (“Help us a little if you feel like it. I’m not forcing anyone.”)

French Pop Song of the Week: The Jealousy of Mademoiselle K

posted September 2, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation world literature

mademoiselle k

Once upon a time, back in the ‘80s, Katerine Gierak was just a young girl in Paris. At five years old she enrolled in her first music class. Soon she started playing the flute and studying music theory. Then she took up the classical guitar, followed by the electric guitar. From 1999 to 2005 she studied music at the Sorbonne, hoping to become a music teacher. But she failed the CAPES, a French exam for teachers, and instead of accepting the failure as a temporary setback, she changed careers. She became a rock star.

Now heading the band Mademoiselle K, Katerine Gierak is a popular and distinctive voice in contemporary French rock. Here is a clip of her 2006 song “Jalouse” (”Jealous”) from the album Ça Me Vexe (”That Upsets Me”). Below is a translation of the lyrics.

Clip : “Jalouse”, Mademoiselle K. Roy Music
envoyé par roymusic. – Regardez plus de clips, en HD !
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French Pop Song of the Week: “Mystery Train,” La Féline

posted May 18, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music translation uncategorized world literature


According to its MySpace page, La Féline is “a trio that likes pop, epic folk, beauty, strangeness, instrumental music, and B movies” (“un trio qui aime la pop, le folk épique, le beau, le bizarre, la musique instrumentale et les séries B”). But I prefer this description that lead singer Agnès Gayraud gave in an English-language interview.

We’re three people. A dark-haired girl, Agnès. who sings and plays guitar, gently leading the band, a grey-haired boy, Xavier, who plays keyboards, and a brown-haired boy, Stéphane, playing drums. We all live in Paris. We’re all looking for something—without knowing exactly what. We only agree on the fact we’re looking for it.

La Féline’s music is sometimes in French, sometimes in English. This song is in both, creating a Franco-American mélange in which French pop tradition wanders freely in the folksy, Wild West.

Below are the lyrics and a translation of the French.

HibOO d’Live : La Féline “Mystery Train” from on Vimeo.

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

posted April 18, 2010

Posted by Thomas Riggs in music poetry translation world literature


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.

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