Last week in La Rochelle, a huge music festival, Les Francofolies, took place. Each year the festival attracts an enormous amount of people looking to spend their evenings regarding the festivites, and this year was no exception. Every street near the water was lined with artists, musicians, performers, and vendors looking to draw attention from potential on-lookers. The once calm and peaceful port-town had almost instantly transformed into a thriving cultural center point.
While the crowds themselves were certainly a sight to behold, the most exceptional part about the festivities was the varied selection of music. The sounds from accordions, guitars, jambes, saxophones–any instrument one could think of–seemed to eminate from every street corner. Whether one attended a concert at the Grande Scène or simply walked along the rues, one would have witnessed a spectacular display of local and world music.
The most well-known musicians, which included Charlotte Gainsbourg, Coeur de pirate, M, and Phoenix, performed at the Grande Scène. There was also a plethora of separate stages scattered throughout the city that catered to more specific interests. One area, entitled “Not Ze Francos,” housed concerts where the musicians sang in other languages (not in French). Pony Pony Run Run, Curry & Coco, General Elektriks, Revolver, and many other popular bands performed here.
Despite being somewhat preoccupied with my roles as a student and a houseguest, I managed to make some time in the evenings to view a few of the shows. Each night I attended the free concert series at the Scène de l’Horloge, and it was here that I experienced a few “French firsts.” Prior to my attending Les Francofolies, I had always considered (perhaps ignorantly) the genres “country” and “rap” to strictly be products of America. I am sure that my jaw fell open when Nouvel R, a French rap group (complete with a talented beatboxer), and Yules, a French country/Americana duo, took up the stage. While I am not a devotee of these genres, I was both thoroughly enlightened and entertained during the concerts. Some of my favorites from this series include Emynona, La Fanfare en Pétard, and Twin Twin.
I was also greatly intrigued by how eclectic the audiences were. In America, concerts involving screaming, rapping, and loud guitar feedback generally appeal to a younger crowd, and one might seldom find an “older” attendee. At Les Francofolies it was much different: children, parents, and grand-parents could be seen nodding their heads and dancing to ALL types of music. It seems as though this natural appreciation for the arts is a deeply embedded aspect of French culture–an aspect that has made it possible to bridge the widest of generation gaps.
–Madeline Hunter ’11