What’s Playing on Parisian Radio? Everything.

article image

What are they listening to in Paris? Gareth Murphy at the new and impressive Journal of Music fills us in on the expansive playlists of Parisian radio stations:

Classical, jazz, electro pips and boinks, apocalyptic gangster rap from the Paris hoods, gay house, Congolese rhumba,chanson française, Hebrew religious songs, arty hip-hop from New York, Zouk from the Antilles, salsa from Havana, crooner slows from the 1980s, accordion cheese, Arabic trad, Algerian raï, French R&B for suburban girlies, weird cinematic soundtracks about geese flying to Moscow. Parisians approach music rather like food: they want to taste every dish that human civilisation has ever invented.

Murphy attributes this wild eclecticism to several factors. France is better known for painting, literature, and cinema than for music; hence its relatively small music industry “does not possess the arrogance and influential export market that the pop music scene in London is renowned for” and is free to play what it wants. He also posits that theater is a subliminal artistic reference point for the French, resulting in a strange combination of musical tastes:

Caught in a split personality between the brooding of Northern Europe and the simplicity of Mediterranean culture, it’s almost as if the French still don’t know whether music is supposed to be stupid or serious, ironic or first degree.

Murphy notes that many talented artists who failed to launch their careers in their homelands end up being the toast of Paris. For example, have you ever heard of the U.S. folk singer Alela Diane? Neither had I. But Murphy reports that this “rising genius” has gotten huge exposure through repeated plays on France Inter, the country’s news, society and culture broadcaster, launching her on national tours. “The Paris music scene does not have any special secret to teach the world’s musicians,” he writes, “except maybe that the expectations and values of your audience will denote the ambitions and content of your work.”

Source: The Journal of Music (subscription required for full article)

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.