01:24:49 amCategories: Fieldwork, Music, literature, arts...

L’anthropologue se cache pour écrire…

Friday 9th of March, Café Culturel, Saint Denis (93)
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….

Dgiz with the classical flutist Sylvaine Helary at L'Olympic Café.

The last five days, I’ve listened to at least 12 hours of slam poetry performances. Yesterday, I was at L’Atelier du Plateau, in a neighbourhood theatre in Rue de Plateau, (in 20eme Arr., not so far from where I live), where the slammeur and rapper Dgiz [site myspace – the second video from the top is a promotion for his slam session at l’Atelier] hosts a session about every sixth week. His soirées are said to be among the best in Paris. Yesterday he had invited an excellent cellist to accompany the poems. If I had remembered to take a photo (I was busy filming), you would have seen a fine example of the combination of high art and banlieue streetart I mentioned in a previous post. Dgiz looks and talks as someone who’s grown up in the ‘hood, but his soirée slam goes well with cello music and poetry from people of all ages and social backgrounds. (A contrast and combination I'm quite sure he accentuates with purpose). For instance, of the more than 40 performances yesterday, about 1/4 were by people at least 50 years old…

There is of course a lot more than the age of the participants to be said about this soirée, but I’ll not go into detail here. Instead, I’ll move back one day to the l’après midi slam I attended at the History and Art Museum in the suburb Saint Denis. It was the third time in four days I’d taken metro line 13 to Saint Denis: This afternoon was hosted by Ami Karim and John Pucc’Chocolat, colleagues of the 500 000 copies-selling slammeur Grand Corps Malade who had won two prizes on the French music award ceremony the night before for his album Midi 20. (Prizes for album and artist discovery of the year.) The slameur-euses at the museum were predominantly from Grand Corps Malade’s weekly workshop for writing in Saint Denis, consisting of pensioners and youth, while the audience was from the age of 7 to at least 70.

One of the things I find great about this workshop (where I sometimes participate/observe) is how it brings together the (white) elderly people of Saint Denis and the youth (of all colours) of today’s France.

Saturday I didn’t go to Saint Denis, but filmed a poetry show on request from the performing poetess at Theatre de la Providence just up the road here in Belleville. La Providence hosts slammeur-ueses throughout Le printemps de poètes. I was there filming another performance last Monday (O-Mind with Ucoc and Chantal Carbon).

On the international woman’s day on Thursday, I listened to members of the Saint Denis writing workshop again, as well as the all woman slam collective Slam ô Feminin. Slam ô Feminin was created 4 years ago, at the 8th of March, exactly at the Café Culturel in Saint Denis where I heard them now. This café, next to the old basilica in Saint Denis, is a corner stone in French slam – they’ve been hosting slam sessions for several years.

On Friday, the oldest cohort of slammeur-euses was gathered at the same café on a closed event (which stirred some resentment, as one of the definitions of French slam is that it’s an open mic…). Grand Corps Malade, Souleymane Diamanka, Dgiz, Chantal Carbon from Slam ô Feminin… and almost 40 others performed their texts. I was watching the crowded café from an excellent view in a staircase amongst the slammeurs whom I now exchanges la bise with, and was thinking about the first time I was here at Café Culturel in the summer, listening to the poems from the outskirts of the circle, not being able to see much else than the peoples’ backs, the Saint Denis shopping centre and the basilica... After finally finding a focus for my thesis in early June and got back to Paris after an autumn in Norway, my research is progressing so rapidly that I have a hard time following…

This week I hope to make use of my timely cold to stay at home and keep still for a moment to get an overview over what I’m doing. (For instance; am I going to focus on open microphone events, on poetry workshops, on persons extending to the theatre and other performances they do… I have already a pile of poetry texts I’ve just started to look at and which I certainly must read all of before I start interviewing people…). All there is on the agenda the first half of this week is a workshop with homeless people arranged by Slam ô Feminin, and a slam session at the Mental Hospital Sainte Anne in relation to Le Printemps de Poètes. I finally hope to get some rest and some order.


Comment from: Monica [Visitor]

This is intriguing! You’ve really found a field ‘in process’. I look foreward to seeing you in May and to hear and maybe see more….

14/03/07 @ 16:35
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks for the comment, Monica.

Yes, this slam phenomenon in progress is indeed intriguing in itself, and I’m met by a hospitality which gives me an access that I never dreamt of. Due to this fortunate position within a movement in bloom, I’m starting to realise that I can’t “waste” this unique material only as an approach to study postcolonial France – as originally was the idea. The slam poetry scene deserves a through treatment in itself, within – of course – postcolonial France, where it certainly belongs. This raises a question concerning my comparative ambition: what happens to the comparison with London, if this study is as much on slam poetry as on a postcolonial metropolis?

I’ll need more than a couple of days rest at home to figure out the solution to this challenge…

14/03/07 @ 17:27
Comment from: Åsne [Visitor]

This is all so inspiring to read about! It seems like your material on the slam scene is starting to branch off from the original project somehow. Doubtless you’ll have tons of unique material when you come back - do you think it might eventually turn into something of its own, outside the frames of a thesis? What I’m thinking is that your findings might be used in two different ways which would complement each other: 1) in your thesis, the slam scene becomes an example of living together in the postcolonial metropolis - the comparison with London would still be standing; 2) your material from documenting and interpreting the slam scene goes into a documentary of some sort - a book or a short film made for a wider audience, yet informed by your anthropological background.

I’m just thinking out loud here…

15/03/07 @ 14:44
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks for your inspiring comment, Åsne! You’re right; the slam scene as a way of living together in a postcolonial metropolis is certainly comparable to similar phenomena in London.

And I’d love to create something for a wider audience, however the problem is that I can’t imagine having time to do it while I write up my thesis and teach classes back in Oslo, and when the thesis is finished in 2 1/2 years, the French slam vogue will be old news… By the way, I’ve already decided to submit a dvd with my thesis, so people will be able to see the real thing, not only read my academic transpositions. If I also include a chapter on streetart (hence appropriation of space) full of photos from Paris, my PhD thesis will quickly head for cult status up at Blindern campus :D

15/03/07 @ 19:56
Comment from: Åsne [Visitor]

Yes, of course - I forget that a PhD must be time-consuming enough as it is! The dvd idea sounds good :)

16/03/07 @ 13:16

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