As arguably the most artistic country in Europe (calm down, Italians…), France has plenty to say when it comes to music, too. Of course, the language barrier limits many French artist’s international impact, but -– as Museyon’s Music + Travel Worldwide found out –- rap rules the roost in Paris, and the arty side of hip-hop and some of the world’s most impressive club-filling music is seeping out of the romance capital of the world, too. As James Hendicott found out, there’s plenty to choose from.
Electronic Superstars: Daft Punk
Dressed in their iconic helmets and performing an instantly accessible form of electronica that has most corners of Europe in raptures, Daft Punk are 21st-century electronic heroes. Based on the local house scene, the duo sings in English, making them easy to grasp internationally, and played a key roll in taking synth pop to the level of international notoriety it can claim now. These days they even have their own computer game, and wow, these guys really make you want to dance.
DJ Hero: David Guetta
Having crept up to the status of near household name in Europe over the last decade, David Guetta’s more recent projects have seen him work with the likes of Black Eyed Peas, Akon, Estelle, Kelly Rowland and Kid Cudi. Having started out as a Paris club DJ, Guetta’s fame didn’t arrive until his late 30s, but when it did arrive he won numerous Ibiza Awards, as well as being nominated for a Grammy Award. Even if you don’t recognize his name, you’ve almost certainly heard Guetta’s work: he produced Black Eyed Peas recent smash hit ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’.
Ambient indie Stars: Air
An acronym for ‘Amour, Imagination, Reve’ – which translates as ‘Love, Imagination, Dream’ – Air made their name internationally with 1998’s ‘Moon Safari’ album, widely regarded as one of the most compelling ambient albums ever produced. Air thrive on improvisation, taking a truck load of equipment on stage to play with live, and have become well renowned for their live shows, while forever trying to escape the ‘coffee table music’ tag ‘Moon Safari’ left them with. Is there any better coffee table music in the world? You’d be hard pressed to say yes…
Marseille hip-hop superstars: IAM
A prominent feature in our guide to French rap in Music and Travel Worldwide, IAM and stands for ‘Invasion From Mars’ (in French, obviously…). With a heavy African influences, IAM became a French rap pioneer by blending French rhythms with African influenced lyrics and topics. There’s an element of one-dimensional politics to IAM, who state their sole political aim as a reaction to the French ‘Front National’ party. The group are closely linked in with American stars Wu-Tang Clan, and remains an essential influences on the French hip-hop scene.
Electro Heroes: Justice
Justice’s debut album is named as simply a cross symbol, and fetched plentiful critical acclaim, while the band went on to pick up a Grammy Award for an MGMT remix. Justice has not been without controversy, with many suggesting the video for 2008’s “Stress” depicted racism, though the band themselves argue simply shows the more deprived side of Paris. Problems aside, the band has found itself at the very heart of the modern electro scene, and travelled all over the world to perform over the last two years. If you want to check out that controversial video, though, you can find it here:
Outrageous Rockers: Oberkampf
With a suspiciously German sounding name, perhaps it’s not the biggest surprise to learn that Oberkampf has a particularly anti-nationalist stance, having once got themselves in a plenty of trouble for burning a French flag on stage at one of their shows. They were unusual in France, though, for helping am underground rock scene make an impact, releasing three albums (two of them way back in the ’80s, and the third only six years ago), and publicizing the French punk scene.
James Hendicott is a travel and music writer living in Ireland, and your guide to Celtic punk in the Music+Travel Worldwide from Museyon Guides. More of his work can be found at hendicottwriting.com. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday, for a new local playlist.
image by Caesar Sebastian/Flickr