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When I was contemplating a title for this post, the first thing that came to mind was the revolution will not be televised (Gil Scott-Heron’s eternal phrase). This association might seem a bit far off, but watching TV as rarely as I do, makes me surprised how crappy that medium is to pass on intelligible and sensible information. (Apropos French elitism versus Norwegian anti-elitism which I wrote about some posts ago; stating that one doesn’t watch TV is commonplace and almost expected in my circles in France, in Norway on the other side it’s seen as verging on elitism )
The show in question is a 30 minutes “debate” on French slam between four slameurs and an interrupting and not very knowledgeable journalist, called “Slam: from the bistro to the telly” (Slam: du bistrot à la télé). It was broadcasted 13.11.06 on France 3, and to my knowledge it’s not widely discussed in slam circles, and when it’s brought up it’s mostly in order to diss the fourth participant, which will also be my subject in this post (in addition to dissing TV in general)… I found it on the Internet here. In addition to a lot of interruptions and all-speaking-at-the-same-time (typical French TV entertainment), it also contains some throwing of water and some short slam performances. I’ll give a short résumé…
This evening I should have been on the 129H’s monthly slam session at Lou Pascalou, in Rue Panoyaux next to Metro Ménilmontant. 129H is one of the older slam collectives. I’ve seen the members around on various events, but not yet on their monthly open microphone soirée.
However, I’m almost a little relieved that I finally have caught the Parisian spring cold, so I can spend a few days at home, trying to catch up with what has been going on the last week. I’m starting to get the reputation of being on all events “everywhere”. It’s a nice reputation to have, but very tiring indeed to keep up with….
I’m happy to hear that some Master students read my blog in order to prepare for their own first fieldwork. The idea of this blog has never been to inform about what’s going on in France, neither on findings in my own research, but rather to show snapshots from an anthropological fieldwork-in-progress - so I would love that other fieldworkers (to be) find inspiration here. As the research has moved into a new stage after I returned to Paris in mid January, the time is therefore overdue to provide some news from the progress.
Following the Parisian slam scene immediately led me to the suburbs. During my 9 months long first stay here, I crossed la pheripherique (ring road) only five times (except to go to the airport). Three times in the summer I attended open microphone slam events; two in Saint Denis (by Stade de France which one can se on the way to the airport) and one in Fontenay-sous-Bois (to the south east). Saint Denis is well connected to the metro system, Fontenay-sous-Bois is not, and it was a true galère to get there, according to one I travelled with. (One of our adventures dans la galère, I recounted here in Nouvelle France).
Every night there are several soirées slams taking place. The scene has completely exploded since I started following it 8 months ago, and certainly since I had my first peek into it at a quite shabby bar in Rue de Bagnolet more than a year ago. The slam is still going on in shabby bars, but it’s also found its way big time onto the Internet.
Télérama, a French version of the British Time Out has put 6 nice videos on their site, here. I would particularly recommend Sandra and Le Slam (with the duo performing AC! En nos âmes et consciences which I wrote about here).
The bar Divan du Monde up in Montmartre (the cradle of Parisian slam) is having great slam soirées once a month hosted by Caroline Carl, and they put all the performances on internet: see here.
Last week-end there was some kind of hip-hop award going on, where slam was a category (which I’ve not heard anyone talk about). I’ll add the link here, because it includes one of my personal favourites Souleymane Diamanka. (The others are also worth checking out. Abd Al Malik represents a strange phenomenon, by the way. I think he’s great, but strangely the term slam were not connected to his name before it became an advertismenent asset…. Read an interview with him in Danish(!) here –thanks Monica, for the link ).
The reason why Souleymane is my favourite can be found on his site on myspace here: Le poète se cache… It’s sooo beautiful.
UPDATE ON SOULEYMANE DIAMANKA: All the lyrics from Souleymane Diamanka’s forthcoming album L'Hiver Peul (out the 10th of April), can be found here, together with an extensive biography, touring dates, extracts of the songs etc. The biography contains some information of the oratory arts amongst the people Peul in Senegal transmitted to the French suburbs obviously representing such a goldmine for an anthropologist that it’ll surely result in a new post soon. (It also appears that Souleymane participated in the inauguration of the controversial (ethnographic) arts museum Quai Branly (site in English!)…).
The 10th of April is also the release date for the anthology of poems written together with John Bansaï, J’écris en français dans une langue étrangère (“I write in French in a foreign language”).
Many months ago, I mentioned that I wanted to write about cycling in Paris versus Oslo, from the perspective of Marcel Mauss’ techniques du corps (available for download in French here). I’m reminded of this old classic each time I go from my Norwegian bike to my French one. Most bikes in Norway have an extra angle on the handle, putting it more in front, thus making the cyclist lean more forward. In Paris, the cyclists sit with their back straight. The majority of bikes in Oslo are some kind of – rather fancy – sport bikes. In Parisian streets, the sport bikes are rare, and you see men and women cycle on anything on two wheels – men on what usually is considered a woman’s bike are for instance not unusual. (And sure, after having my foldable, and expensive indeed, bike stolen after just a couple of months, the last thing I want is a new fancy looking one. What I’ve got now is a cheap retro looking inconspicuous one, – which a friend immediately condemned as bourgeoisie-looking. My only justification was that it was the cheapest I could find.)
I’m not yet tired of Parisian street-life. That’s good, because it’s only four floors separating my bedroom-cum-office from a very noisy, or let’s rather say lively, street indeed.
Rue du Faubourg du Temple runs, as I’ve already mentioned, between the significant places Place de la République - where an enormous bronze Marianne La République resides with the three strong marble ladies La Liberté, L’Égalité and La Fraternité – and Belleville. Most demonstrations of whatever size start at Place de la République. When I lived next to the square for a fortnight in December, I stumbled upon a substantial number of police cars right outside my gate every third day or so. One day it was no less than 16 vans from the CRS, another day just 10 or so from La Gendarmerie, and yet another it was the Police Nationale. Only at one of the occasions did I see the demonstrators. The same happened actually a couple of days ago. I had read at Paris.Indymedia that the college students and the sans-papiers would demonstrate against the immigrations policies, so I went over to see what was happening. Maybe I was too late, because at the time I arrived there was very few lycéens to see. On the other hand, the forces of order were heavily represented; the CRS with at least 15 vans, a bus and some other equipment were creating a noisy traffic jam driving south-east down Avenue de la République (direction Père Lachaise and perhaps Place de la Nation). The demonstrations of national importance usually go between Place de la République to Place de la Nation, via Bastille – thus it’s not only the police who can stage a political struggle symbolically (however, with their Robocop uniforms they’re hard to beat when it comes to costumes).