- Music of France
France has a wide variety of indigenous folk music, as well as styles played by immigrants from Africa, Latin America and Asia. In the field of classical music, France has produced a number of legendary composers, while modern pop music has seen the rise of popular French hip hop, techno/funk, zouk, and pop performers.
Music of France Styles classical - folk - popular: hip hop - jazz - rock History Awards NRJ Music Awards - Victoires de la Musique Charts IFOP Festivals Printemps de Bourges - Eurockéennes de Belfort Media National anthem "La Marseillaise" Regional music Auvergne - Aquitaine - Pays Basque - Brittany - Burgundy - Corsica - Gascony - Limousin Overseas music French Guiana - French Polynesia - Martinique and Guadeloupe - Mayotte - New Caledonia - Réunion - Tahiti - Wallis and Futuna
- 1 Music History
- 2 Classical Music
- 3 Folk Music
- 4 Popular music
- 5 References
- 6 External links
French music history dates back to organum in the 10th century, followed by the Notre Dame School, an organum composition style. Troubadour songs of chivalry and courtly love were composed in the Occitan language between the 10th and 13th centuries, and the Trouvère poet-composers flourished in Northern France during this period. By the end of the 12th century, a form of song called the motet arose, accompanied by traveling musicians called jongleurs. In the 14th century, France produced two notable styles of music, Ars Nova and Ars Subtilior. During the Renaissance, Burgundy became a major center for musical development. This was followed by the rise of chansons and the Burgundian School. France is a very musical country.
The first French opera may be Akébar roi du Mogol, first performed in Carpentras in 1646. It was followed by the team of Pierre Perrin and Cambert, whose Pastoral in Music, performed in Issy, was a success, and the pair moved to Paris to produce Pomone (1671) and Les Peines et les Plaisirs de l'Amour (1672).
Jean-Baptiste Lully, who had become well known for composing ballets for Louis XIV, began creating a French version of the Italian opera seria, a kind of tragic opera known as tragédie lyrique or tragédie en musique - see (French lyric tragedy). His first was Cadmus from 1673. Lully's forays into operatic tragedy were accompanied by the pinnacle of French theatrical tragedy, led by Corneille and Racine.
Lully also developed the common beat patterns used by conductors to this day, and was the first to take the role of leading the orchestra from the position of the first violin.
Romantic Era & Hector Berlioz
One of the major French composers of the time, and one of the most innovative composers of the early Romantic era, was Hector Berlioz.
In the late 19th century, pioneers like Georges Bizet, Jules Massenet, Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy revitalized French music. The last two had an enormous impact on 20th century music - both in France and abroad - and influenced many major composers like Béla Bartók and Igor Stravinsky. Erik Satie was also a very significant composer from that era. His music is difficult to classify but sounds surprisingly ahead of its time.
The early 20th century saw neo-classical music flourish in France, especially composers like Albert Roussel and Les Six, a group of musicians who gathered around Satie. Later in the century, Olivier Messiaen, Henri Dutilleux and Pierre Boulez proved influential. The latter was a leading figure of Serialism while Messiaen incorporated Asian (particularly Indian) influences and bird song and Dutilleux translated the innovations of Debussy, Bartók and Stravinsky into his own, very personal, musical idiom.
The most important French contribution to musical innovation of the past 35 years is a form of computer-assisted composition called "spectral music". The astonishing technical advances of the spectralist composers in the 1970s are only recently beginning to achieve wide recognition in the United States; major composers in this vein include Gérard Grisey, Tristan Murail, and Claude Vivier.
Traditional styles of music have survived most in remote areas like the island of Corsica and mountainous Auvergne, as well as the more nationalistic regions of the Basques and Bretons.
In many cases, folk traditions were revived in relatively recent years to cater to tourists. These groupes folkloriques tend to focus on very early 20th century melodies and the use of the piano accordion.
In 1900 in Paris, a new style of waltz emerged, the "Valse musette" an evolution of Bal-musette also known as "French Waltz". Aimable, Émile Vacher, Marcel Azzola, Yvette Horner, André Verchuren were famous accordionists who played valse musette. There is also Yann Tiersen and its Amélie_(soundtrack) of Amélie from Montmartre.
The West of France comprises the Pays de Nantes, the provinces of Vendée, Anjou and Maine, and the Poitou-Charentes region. Traditions of ballad-singing, dance-songs and fiddle-playing have survived, predominantly in Poitou and the Vendée. Jérôme Bujeaud collected extensively in the area, and his 2-volume work "Chants et chansons populaires des provinces de l'ouest: Poitou, Saintonge, Aunis et Angoumois" (Niort, 1866) remains the principal scholarly collection of music and songs. In recent decades John Wright and Claude Ribouillault (amongst others) have done much to collect, analyse and promote the surviving traditions.
The Marais Breton of Vendée is noted particularly for its tradition of veuze playing - which has been revived by the bagpipe-maker and player Thierry Bertrand - and for traditional singers such as Pierre Burgaud.
Folk dances specific to the West of France include the courante, or maraichine, and the bal saintongeais. Bourrées in triple time have been noted in the 19th century by Bujeaud, and more recently, in Angoumois. Circle- or chain-dances accompanied by caller-and-response singing have been noted in the West, and also in other regions such as Gascony, Normandy and Brittany.
Notable contemporary folk musicians include Christian Pacher and Claude Ribouillault (Poitou) and the group La Marienne (Vendée.)
Central France includes the regions of Auvergne, Limousin, Morvan, Nivernais, Bourbonnais and Berry. The lands are the home to a significant bagpipe tradition, as well as the iconic hurdy gurdy and the dance bourrée. There are deep differences between the regions of Central France, with the Auvergne and Limousin retained the most vibrant folk traditions of the area. As an example of the area's diversity, the bourrée can come in either duple or triple meter; the latter is found in the south of the region, and is usually improvised with bagpipes and hurdy gurdy, while the former is found in the north and includes virtuoso players.
Bagpipe and Hurdy Gurdy
Main articles: Bagpipe and hurdy gurdy
The hurdy gurdy, or vielle-à-roue, is essentially a mechanical violin, with keys or buttons instead of a finger board. It is made up of a curved, oval body, a set of keys and a curved handle, which is turned and connected to a wheel which bows the strings that are stopped by the keys. There is a moveable bridge, a variable number of drones and hidden sympathetic strings, all of which can also effect the sound. Simpler forms of the hurdy gurdy are also found in Spain, Hungary and Russia.
The bagpipe is found in a wide array of forms in France, which has more diversity in bagpipes than any other country. The cabrette and grande cornemuse from Auvergne and Berry are the most well-known. These forms are found at least as far back as the 17th century. Prominent bagpipers include Bernard Blanc, Frédéric Paris and Philippe Prieur, as well as bandleader Jean Blanchard of La Grande Bande de Cornemuses and Quintette de Cornemuses. Frédéric Paris is also known as a member of the Duo Chabenat-Paris, a prominent duo who use elements like mixed polyphonic ensembles and melodies based on the bourrée. Bernard Blanc and Jean Blanchard, along with Eric Montbel from Lyons, were among the musicians who formed the basis of La Bamboche and Le Grand Rouge. It was these two bands who did more than anyone to revitalize the traditions of Central France during the 1970s folk revival. The festival of St. Chartier, a music festival held annually near Châteauroux, has been a focal point for the music of Auvergne and Limousin.
The provinces of Morvan and Nivernais have produced some traditional stars, including Faubourg de Boignard and Les Ménétriers du Morvan, respectively. The Nivernais collector Achille Millien was also notable in the early part of the 20th century.
The music of the French Basque Country (east of the Basque Country) should be considered against a Pyrenean cultural background. Up to recent times and still ttun-ttun and xirula should be highlighted in traditional folk music (especially in the province of Soule) as a tabor and pipe like pair.
It's worth remembering the role of Mixel Etxekopar or Jean Mixel Bedaxagar as xirula players as well as traditional singers. Other popular performers like Benat Achiary take up a more experimental approach. These performers refer to a former tradition collected and restored by figures like Etxahun Iruri (1908–1979) where singing improviser poets (bertsolaris) played an important role in popular culture. Unfortunately, this bertsolari tradition has come almost to a halt, while some efforts are being made to restore it on new generations along the lines of the "southern" tradition, i.e. of the Spanish Basque Country.
Music from the Basque Country nowadays caters to almost all the tastes of music, with a wide range of music being played in Basque, from choral music (Oldarra in Biarritz) to elaborate music bands (e.g. Bidaia) to ska or hardcore trends, while it's much praised lately for the fine bare voices that have arisen with the likes of Maddi Oihenart, Maialen Errotabehere or Amaren Alabak, to mention but a few.
Corsican polyphonic singing is perhaps the most unusual of the French regional music varieties. Sung by male trios, it is strongly harmonic and occasionally dissonant. Works can be either spiritual or secular. Modern groups include Canta u Populu Corsu, I Muvrini, Tavagna and Chjami Aghjalesi; some groups have been associated with Corsican nationalism.
Distinctly Celtic in character, the folk music of Lower Brittany has had perhaps the most successful revival of its traditions, partly thanks to the city of Lorient, which hosts France's most popular music festival.
The documented history of Breton music begins with the publication of Barzaz-Breizh in 1839. A collection of folk songs compiled by Hersart de la Villemarqué, Barzaz-Breizh re-branded and promoted Breton traditions and helped ensure their continuity.
Couples de sonneurs, consisting of a bombarde and biniou, is usually played at festoù-noz (fest-noz) celebrations (some are famous, like Printemps de Chateauneuf). It is swift dance music and has an older vocal counterpart called kan ha diskan. Unaccompanied call and response singing was interspersed with the gwerz, a form of ballad.
Probably the most popular form of Breton folk is the bagad pipe band, which features native instruments like biniou and bombarde alongside drums and, in more modern groups, biniou braz pipes. Modern revivalists include Kevrenn Alre Bagad and Bagad Kemper.
Alan Stivell is perhaps the most influential folk-rock performer of continental Europe. After 1971's Renaissance of the Celtic Harp, Breton and other Celtic traditional music achieved mainstream success internationally. With Dan Ar Bras, he then released Chemins de Terre (1974), which launched Breton folk-rock. This set the stage for stars like Malicorne in the ensuing decades.
In later years much has been done to collect and popularize the musical traditions of the Pays Gallo of Upper Brittany, for which the singer Bertran Ôbrée, his group Ôbrée Alie and the association DASTUM must take much credit. The songs of Upper Brittany are either in French or in Gallo.
Modern Breton folk music includes harpists like Anne-Marie Jan, Anne Auffret and Myrdhin, while singers Kristen Nikolas, Andrea Ar Gouilh and Yann-Fanch Kemener have become mainstream stars. Instrumental bands, however, have been the most successful, including Gwerz, Bleizi Ruz, Strobinell, Sonerien Du and Tud.
The Zouk is a style of rhythmic music originating from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Zouk means "party" or "festival" in the local Antillean Creole of French, although the word originally referred to, and is still used to refer to, a popular dance, based on the Polish dance, the mazurka, that was introduced to the French Caribbean in the 19th Century.
Today, there is an alternative of Zouk influenced by the American R&B. It is a mixture of R&B and Zouk Love. This trend has taken birth in Paris with artists such as Slaï, Thierry Cham, Jane Fostin, Ali Angel, Medhy costs, Nichols, Kimberlite Zouk, Warren, Marvin, Kaysha, Elizio, Teeya, Soumia Linsha and etc. .... but it is also Jean-Michel Rod is the precursor of Zouk R&B (Zouk RNB, Zouk R'NB) or "américanisé" with their song "Le Ou Lov", "Sof will," "Stop", "Cigaret", "Chut j'taime" "Mwen'm not," "And I love her" and "Ella". This trend seems to now the accession of the French public due to the success of Slaï, Thierry Cham, Medhy costs, and Pearl Déesses Lama. La Compagnie Créole is a popular French zouk band.
The late 19th century saw the dawn of the music hall when Yvette Guilbert was a major star. The era lasted through to the 1930s and saw the likes of Félix Mayol, Lucienne Boyer, Marie-Louise Damien, Marie Dubas, Fréhel, Georges Guibourg, Tino Rossi, Jean Sablon, Charles Trenet, Édith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier. During the 50s and 60s, it was the golden age of Chanson Française: Dalida, Monique Serf (Barbara), Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré, Charles Aznavour, Alain Barrière and Jacques Brel.
American and British rock and roll was also popular in the 1950s and 60s, and indigenous rock achieved some domestic success. Punk rock and heavy metal found some listeners. Beginning in the 1980s, Les Rita Mitsouko became very popular throughout Europe with their unique blending of punk, new wave, dance and cabaret elements.
In particular, electronic music, as exemplified by Jean Michel Jarre, achieved a wide French audience. The French electro-pop duos Air and Daft Punk and techno artists Laurent Garnier and David Guetta found a wide audience in the late 1990s and early first decade of the 21st century, both locally and internationally. Groups such as Justice, M83, Phoenix and Télépopmusik continue to enjoy success.
Chanson Française is the typical style of French music (chanson means "song" in French) and is still very popular in France. Some of the most important artists included Édith Piaf, Monique Serf (Barbara), Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré, Charles Aznavour, Mireille Mathieu, Gilbert Bécaud, Salvatore Adamo and Jacques Brel plus the more art-house musicians like Brigitte Fontaine. One of the most loved, respected and internationally successful vocalists of the genre is Dalida. In December 1968, she was awarded the Médaille de la Présidence de la République by Général de Gaulle, the only person from the music industry to have received this accolade.She also released what is widely regarded as the first French disco single, "J’attendrai", thus inspiring a new generation of singers. She was the only Western singer ever to break through the barrier separating Arab and Western music and achieve true success (as opposed to niche popularity) in an Arab country. She also released the first French medley single, "Génération ‘78", a disco-fused combination of her biggest hit singles to date.It also became the first French single to be accompanied by a video clip. Many believe that Dalida's video performances and onstage charisma launched a new era for not only the French Music Industry but also for the world music and entertainment industry. It is supposed that American pop star Madonna was inspired by Dalida's innovative style and colourful stage presence to create her hit videos. Also during the 1950s one of the more representative of Montmartre cabaret singers was Suzanne Robert.
During the 1970s, new artists modernized the chanson Française (Joe Dassin, Michel Fugain, Renaud, Francis Cabrel, Alain Souchon, Jacques Higelin, Alain Chamfort) and also in the 80s (Étienne Daho, Têtes Raides) till now (Mano Solo, Matthieu Chedid, Benjamin Biolay, Jean-Louis Murat, Miossec, Mathieu Boogaerts, Daniel Darc, Vincent Delerm).
The more commercial and pop part of "chanson" is called "variété", and included Francis Cabrel, Alain Souchon, Laurent Voulzy and Jean-Jacques Goldman. More recently, the success of the Star Academy television show has spawned a new generation of young pop music stars including Jenifer Bartoli and Nolwenn Leroy; and the superstar status of diva Mylene Farmer inspired pop rock performers like Zazie, Lorie and Alizée, and R&B-influenced singers like Nadiya and Ophelie Winter.
Rock 'N Roll
In the 1950s, Elvis Presley and rock and roll made inroads in the French music scene. It produced stars like Johnny Hallyday, Richard Anthony, Dick Rivers and Claude François, the popular yé-yé girls like Sylvie Vartan and France Gall and artists who fuse various music genres like Dalida, who performed multi-lingual and ethnic styles like Italian style music in 50s; twist, pop and rock in the 60s (and later pop, disco, reggae, new wave and rock in the 70s and 80s). These were popular female teen idols, and included Françoise Hardy, who was the first to write her own songs.
Singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg began as a jazz musician in the 1950s and spanned several eras of French popular music including pop, rock, reggae, new wave, disco and even hip hop filtered through his unique sense of black humor, heavily laden with sex.
Though rock was not extremely popular until the 70s, there were innovative musicians in France as the psychedelic rock trend was peaking worldwide. Jean-Pierre Massiera's Les Maledictus Sound (1968) and Aphrodite's Child's 666 were the most influential. Later came bands such as Magma, Martin Circus, Au Bonheur des Dames, Trust, Téléphone, Noir Désir, and musicians Marcel Dadi, Paul Personne and Bireli Lagrene.
In the early 70s, Breton musician Alan Stivell (Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique) launched the field of French folk-rock by combining psychedelic and progressive rock sounds with Breton and Celtic folk styles.
Progressive Rock 'N Roll
France became one of the leading producers of prog rock in the 1970s. Aficionados worldwide were enamoured by recordings like Ange's Le Cimetiere des arlequins, Pulsar's Halloween, Shylock's Ile de Fievre, Atoll's L'Araignee-Mal and Eskaton's Ardeur. Most well-known, however, may be the band Magma which created its own genre, Zeuhl music.
In the 1980s, French rock spawned myriad styles, many closely connected with other Francophone musical scenes in Switzerland, Canada and especially Belgium. Pub rock (Telephone), psychobilly (La Muerte), pop punk (Les Thugs), synth pop and punk rock (Bérurier Noir, Bijou and Gill Dougherty) were among the styles represented in this era.
Punk rock had arisen in the 1970s and continued into the next decade, perhaps best represented by Oberkampf and Métal Urbain. 80s progressive rock peaked early in the decade, with Dun's Eros, Emeraude's Geoffroy and Terpandre's Terpandre, all from 1981, representing the genre's pinnacle.
French heavy metal bands include Hacride, Eths, Loudblast, Carcariass, Massacra, Dagoba, Gorod, Kronos, Yyrkoon, Benighted, and Gojira. Many of these bands play in the death metal and/or thrash metal styles.  France also has a large black metal movement, including Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, Peste Noire, Vorkreist, Arkhon Infaustus, Anorexia Nervosa and Antaeus, and the organization known as Les Légions Noires made up of such bands as Mutiilation, Vlad Tepes and Torgeist. The 'shoegaze' black metal movement also has many bands hailing from France, such as Alcest, Les Discrets and Amesoeurs.
French house is a late 1990s form of house music, part of the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century European dance music scene and the latest form of Euro disco. The genre is also known as "Disco house", "Neu-disco" (new disco), "French touch", "filter house" or "tekfunk". The early mid/late 1990s productions was notable for the "filter effect" used by artists such as Daft Punk. Other productions use more mainstream vocals and samples. French house is greatly influenced by the 1970s Euro disco and especially the short lived space disco music style (a European (mostly French) variation of Hi-NRG disco), and also by P-Funk and the productions of Thomas Bangalter
The first French house experiments (at the time called "disco house" and "neu disco") became notable in the international market between 1997 and 1999. Daft Punk, Stardust and Cassius were the first international successful artists of the genre and their videos show their "space disco" roots.
Hip hop music came from New York City, invented in the 1970s by African Americans. By 1983, the genre had spread to much of the world, including France. Almost immediately, French performers (musicians and breakdancers) began their career, including Max-Laure Bourjolly and Traction Avant. Popularity was brief, however, and hip hop quickly receded to the French underground. Hip-hop was adapted to French context, especially the poverty and violence of large cities known as banlieues ("suburbs") where many French of foreign descent live, especially from the former colonial countries (West Africa and Maghreb, Caribbean). If there is some influence of African musics and of course American hip hop, French hip-hop is also strongly connected to French music, with strong reciprocal influences, from French pop and chanson, both in music and lyrics.
Paname City Rappin (1984, by Dee Nasty) was the first album released, and the first major stars were IAM, Suprême NTM and MC Solaar, whose 1991 Qui Sème le Vent Récolte le Tempo, was a major hit. Through the nineties, the music grew to become one of the most popular genres in France with huge success of the pioneers (IAM, Suprême NTM) and newcomers (Ministère Amer, Oxmo Puccino, Lunatic). France is the world's second-largest hip-hop market. The most popular rappers of the 2000's are Diam's, Booba and Kenza Farah with successful artists more underground like La Rumeur, la Caution and TTC.
France has long had a large Algerian minority, a legacy of colonial domination of that country.
Beginning in the 1920s raï developed in Algeria as a combination of rural and urban music. Often viewed as a form of resistance towards censorship, many of the conventional values of the old raï became modernized with instruments, synthesizers and modern equipment. Later performers added influences from funk, hip hop, rock and other styles, creating most notably a pop genre called lover's raï. Performers include Rachid Taha and Faudel. This time was when the music started getting popular among the Maghrebi populace of France. Originating in the lower-class slums of the city of Oran, raï shot to the top of the French charts in 1992 with the release of Khaled's self-titled album Khaled. Rai continues to be an identity marker, and aided with the creation of the Arab identity in France. Social and economic problems continue in the banlieus of France, and thus, the verlan slang music will continue.
Raï as a musical form has tonal differences that go up and down, and has adopted beats that sound like pop. Much of the music is sung in Arabic, and differ depending on the country where it has immigrated. In France, a majority of raï music is a mixture of Arabic and verlan French.
- ^ Adrien Begrand. "Gojira, The Way of All Flesh". PopMatters. http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/gojira-the-way-of-all-flesh. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- ^ (French) Quels sont nos artistes les mieux exportés en 2009 ? - Charts in France
- ^ village voice > music > Daft Punk by Scott Woods
- ^ Gross, Joan, David McMurray, and Ted Swedenburg. "Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identities." Diaspora 3:1 (1994): 3- 39. Reprinted in The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader, ed. by Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo, 1
- ^ Raï Music 101 - Introduction To Raï Music - What is Raï Music?
- Krümm, Philippe and Jean-Pierre Rasle. "Music of the Regions". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 103–113. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
- A century of French music in one anthology - (1905-2009) - free download
- 9 volumes of Discovering French Music compilations
- French-kisses, A blog in English dedicated to French music
- BBC Radio 3 Audio (105 minutes): Marseille - Mahgreb Rap, Algerian Rai, Pacific Creole, Congolese Rumba. Accessed November 25, 2010.
- (French) Audio clips: Traditional music of France. Musée d'Ethnographie de Genève. Accessed November 25, 2010.
- Popular French Music: Website with French songs and their english translations.
- French Music Blog: Spotlighting French music for English-speaking fans.
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