Music and South West France – where music nurtures the soul.
If you think of French music what springs to mind? The accordion, café, Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf? Or perhaps Troubadours, Baroque or Bizet?
Today there are more opportunities to experience music of all genres than ever before, especially live music. With bars, restaurants, châteaux and traditional venues offering musical entertainment, there is a veritable array of noteworthy musicians and musical events coming up throughout the region. So whether you usually prefer to tinkle the ivories or blow your own trumpet, why not try something outside “your norm”? Who knows you may soon be singing to a different tune!
Images left to right below: Edith Piaf, Charles Aznavour, Troubadours
If you can sing or play an instrument, or just love the whole music scene, these events certainly hit the high note when it comes to improvisation. Basically, they represent the ultimate jam session with individual musicians coming together over a beat and “cranking out a tune”, or singers accompanied by musicians they have never met before. It is always an experience and an ideal place to see quality musicians in a relaxed atmosphere.
Conjuring up images of tame waltzes or fiery tangos, the accordion has taken on a new persona with musicians like Mikaël Vigneau. Star of radio, film and TV, and a world championship accordionist, his inventive style incorporates rap, pop, rock and, of course, traditional French chansons. Other accordion players are following suit so, if you thought accordion music wasn’t for you, you might want to think again. Of course, if it’s traditional that you want, there are many events offering that too. Well, it wouldn’t be Music and South West France if it wasn’t!
Jazz, in all its forms, is prevalent throughout our region with events like Jazz in Marciac and the Jazz festival at Monsegur. However, there is one particular style that is becoming more popular. The name of guitarist Django Reinhardt is instantly recognised amongst the European Travelling people (Roma, Tziganes, Gens de Voyages, or Gypsies). An incredible guitarist, more so for overcoming severe burns to his left hand, Django formed the Hot Club of France quintet with violinist Stéphane Grapelli. Django’s guitar fused Gypsy and European harmonies together with American jazz, and this, combined with endless compositions, 750-800 recordings, constant live performances and an amazing life story, are what inspire many musicians to this day. One of these is guitarist Matt Guez who formed the Swinguez band on arrival in France in 2015. The band is one of many who create their music in the wake of Django. Watch out for Tzigane and Gypsy Swing, it will be sure to entertain you.
Images left to right below: Swinguez, Mikaël Vigneau, Django Reinhardt
As well as the fantastic concerts held in churches, theatres and châteaux, there are many professional musicians who have moved to France, having played with prestigious orchestras around the world. In addition, more and more attention is turning to musical tuition. In fact, Dordogne is welcoming world-renowned classical musicians this summer during the inaugural week of the Issigeac International Music Academy (IIMA). The celebrated Tippett Quartet will perform two concerts, with a third by highly-acclaimed international violinist Ishani Bhoola. There will also be a course for amateur string players with individual tuition and chamber music coaching from the Tippett Quartet. For more details see www.iimusicacademy.com. Throughout our region you will find operas, orchestras, vocalists and other performances that will strike a chord with your classical preferences.
Pop and Rock
Well it used to be straightforward pop and rock, now it’s all-encompassing to include ska, rap, garage, soul, R&B, punk, grunge, house, reggae, electro, techno, trance, hip-hop and, amongst others, post-disco. For ska imagine R&B, add some jazz, a bit of hip-hop, Jamaican and reggae vibes, and some serious attitude, and you have a cool mix of notes that fits any dance style. Garage is recognized for being soulful and deep with a huge emphasis on the repetitive 4:4 time and additional “unusual” vocals bringing a chilled sound to the dance floor. Far from putting you into one, trance music is often frantic with a “banging” base, a frenetic structure and a thought provoking voice over. For hip-hop think Eminem, Drake and 50 Cent, it’s where you “get down”, soak in the urban vibes and throw some shapes. Electro can be great party music and has many forms including jazz, DJ, house and, of course, electro swing which combines the vintage big band sound with infectious modern and contemporary beats.
Whether its blue grass, blues, Cajun fiddle, cowboy, hillbilly or the more classic variety, there is no doubt that country is widespread (no pun intended). With a host of country clubs in the region, the music incorporates banjo, bass, drums, guitars and, of course, the fiddle. Music and the South West of France incorporates musicians such as Martha Fields who brings a combination of blues, folk, bluegrass and hillbilly to the fore, whilst others such as The Rip Roaring Success concentrate on guitar, double bass and a smokin’ fiddle for a stripped-down Western-style reminiscent of swing. Saving Country Music recently awarded a “two gun up” review to The Dinosaur Truckers, a new-school bluegrass group that infuse a bit of punk into their tempo. Then there is the one man, banjo-playing Dad Horse Experience who accompanies himself on the bass organ with his feet, often playing the kazoo at the same time.
Images left to right below: Dad Horse Experience, Martha Fields, Dinosaur Truckers
For a current list of musical events and festivals in the area go to our events pages at http://www.thelocalbuzzmag.com/whats-on
First published in the May/June 2019 issue of The Local Buzz
Images: Shutterstock, Swinguez, Martha Fields