eialba.blogspot.com - Ernest Alba's MIT Blog

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Renaud - Les Bobos

Hi, did you make it alright? Good, let's begin.

Renaud is one of the biggest names in French music. His work dominates the shelves in music stores and his concerts sell out the largest venues in Paris. He has been working for decades and his music has drawn together older and younger generations by infusing contemporary with his own intense, verbose, and rough musical style. His lyrics, the crowning achievement of his work, are most often political in nature. He speaks of everything from the environment to society to health issues like smoking (which is still extremely popular in France). Because of his fervent support of the common people and the workers of France, he has a loyal legion of fans numbering millions throughout France and Europe.

It was with this knowledge and some of his songs in my head, that I attended a Renaud concert at the Palais Omni du Paris. Renaud was a great and charismatic performer, though his age was beginning to show through the increasing gruffness of his voice and his slight trouble hitting higher notes. But the passion was all there, in his eyes and in his voice. Because it was hard for me to understand what he was saying, the most fascinating thing for me was watching the many fans enamored by their hero. They would shout the words back at Renaud with fervor. They would cheer at everything he said. They would embrace one another and drink with one another as fellow fans.

The most amazing thing they did was something I've never seen accomplished at a concert. After finishing a song, Renaud asked, "Now, would you like to hear Mahattan-Kaboul?" The crowd went wild with anticipation. And he smiled and said, "Okay, but since this is a duet and I'm the only singer standing up here, you're going to have to perform the other part of the duet." And the crowd went wild again. Now, a regular crowd can carry an artist's song for maybe half a verse or a refrain, but this crowd was fully able to perform their half of the song with no cues, no accompaniment, and no help from Renaud. That shows true devotion.

Below, I've provided the music video of the lead song from his new album, Rouge Sang, called "Les Bobos." It describes an emerging French social class that Renaud particularly detests. I've also provided a translation of the lyrics. Below that, I've provided "Manhattan-Kaboul" also with translated lyrics. It tells the story of two children from different parts of the world, neither knowing anything about where the other lives, but both deeply affected by 9/11. The song, which garnered Renaud several awards that year, including Best Song of the Year, stands as a pinnacle of contemporary French music.

They call them bourgeois bohemians
Or 'bobos' for the cogniscent among you
In Vincent Delerm's hits they're mentioned in almost every rhyme.
They form a new caste, after the bourgeoisie and the proles
Similar to the beaufs, but classier
I'll give you a brief sketch of them now.

They're pseudo-artistic, it's true, but their passion is for their work -
whether in IT or media -
and they're proud to pay a hefty share of taxes.

They live on the right side of town.
Or in the suburbs, but in a loft.
Their hip artists' studios are much more now than Avenue Foch.

They have well brought-up kids
Who have read 'The Little Prince' by the age of 6
Who go to private schools -
well, schools that are deprived of chavs, it's true-

They smoke a joint from time to time
and shop in organic markets
Get around in their 4 by 4s
Though more often than not they prefer to go by bike

They read Houellebecq or Philippe Djian
Smash-hits and the TV guide
Their bedtime reading is typically Surand
Found next to the IKEA catalogue

They love Japanese restaurants and Korean Cinema
And spend their holidays at Cap Ferret
- the Cote D'Azur, frankly, is horrific.

They mostly watch ARTE
Canal + is for Blairites
Except for the odd Paris St Germain football match
And a quick porno from time to time

They listen to France Info all day long on their HiFi
Alain Bashung, Francoise Hardy, and of course, Gerard Manset
They love Deproges without even realising that Deproges hates them
Bedos and Jean-Marie Bigard
Although they're ashamed to admit it

They love Jack Lang and Sarkozy
But always vote green
They love the gay mayor of Paris,
Ardisson and his 'friend' Marco

The women all wear Diesel
While for Him it's Armani or Kenzo
And always pay a lot for their cashmere
Zadig and Voltaire - I say bravo
They can often be seen at museums, art galleries and 'olde' bistros
Drinking 'iced Manzanas' while listening to Manu Chao

My pen is slightly poisoned
When it comes to this tribe I'm not too keen on
But from one angle I can see that
You'd also think I'm one of them.

Renaud ft. Axelle Red - Manhattan-Kaboul
Little Puerto Rican boy
Well integrated, almost New Yorker
In his steel and glass building
He does his job, he drinks a coffee

Little Afghan girl
On the other side of the world
She never heard of Manhattan
Her daily life is poverty and war

Two strangers in different worlds, so different
Two strangers, two anonymous... but
Both are pulverized by eternal violence

A Boeing 747 crashed in his windows
Her blue sky became a storm, when bombs destroyed my village

Farewell the American dream
She won't be the dogs' slave anymore
The quickly imposed tyrants' Islam
Did they ever read the Koran ?

He turned back into dust
He won't be master of the universe
The country he liked so much is
Finally a fragile giant

Gods and religions, civilization wars
Weapons, flags, countries and nations
Always take us for victims of their crimes


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