This link for the illustrations.
Per A.J. Andersson for the texts. Written April 2005,
updated April 2016.
music is more than meets the eye. Or, rather, dance-floor. Having
learnt French in School was a great bonus, when finding out there
wasn't only English-language music to be heard.
— • —
And we're not talking French "chanson" here, but pop
music often having enough rock feeling to it to attract the listener
regardless of language barriers. Satirical disco, crazy new wave,
eclectic world music, brooding balladeering and then some more.
Not to mention some Italian and Spanish stuff I stumbled upon
on the way...
SAPHO (née Danielle EBGUY)
Born: 1950 (Marrakech, Morocco)
First album: 1977
My discovery: c. 1985
Multi-talented and multi-cultural, she was born as a French
Jew in an Arab country. She has long worked as a writer and a reader
of poetry and classic literature. But first and foremost she pioneered
"world music", mixing new wave with her diverse ethnical
roots and far-reaching influences long before Peter Gabriel and
Youssou N'Dour coined this a genre within modern pop music.
Formed: 1978 (Belgium)
Dan Lacksman, Michel Moers and Marc Moulin
My discovery: 1980
With tongue-in-cheek synth-disco sung in French Telex was a
rare bird in the more "serious" new wave of the period.
Their brilliant little mockery "Eurovision" was Belgium'
representative at 1980's Eurovision Song Contest, receiving a smashing
total of 14 points...
Formed: 1980 (?) (France)
Disbanded: 1984 (?)
Members: Grégory Ken (Jean-Pierre Trochu-Giraudon)
My discovery: 1983
Engaging and varied pop, combining chic style with intelligent
twists. By a group no-one knew anything about! Singing all in French!
But their hit "Chacun fait (c'qui lui plaît)" was
huge on the airwaves, even beyond some of the borders of France.
Born: 1945 (Saint-Cloud, France)
First album: 1968
My discovery: 1983
Since the late 60s Manset has built his very own corner on
the French music scene. The poetic and highly atmospheric pop and
his own low public profile has only heightened Mansets cult status.
Formed: 1975 (Italy)
Members (1987): Aldo
Stellita, Carlo Marrale, Giancarlo Golzi, Antonella Ruggiero and
My discovery: 1985
What happens when you mix two famous progressive rock groups with
a young opera soprano? Well, you might get one of the most popular
and long-lasting of pop groups. At least in Italy, where the combination
of Jet, Museo Rosenbach and the stunning voice of Antonella Ruggiero
made this a fact.
Les RITA MITSOUKO
Formed: 1980 (Paris, France)
Members: Catherine Ringer and Fred Chichin
My discovery: 1985
The encounter (in 1979) of the multi-talented Catherine and
new wave guitarist Fred spawned one of the most eclectic and entertaining
of French rock outfits. Not to mention a happy couple with kids...
Born: 1962 (Carthage, Tunisia)
First album: 1990
My discovery: 1990
Born in Tunisia but family moving to France when she was 13
made Amina an artist of many cultures. Following her mother in the
dance, she soon involved herself in both acting in films and singing.
Her musical career with songs in both Arabic and French was at a
high in 1990, with both a smash hit album and a second place in
the Eurovision Song Contest.
Formed: 1980 (Madrid, Spain)
Members: Ignacio "Nacho" Cano, Jose-Maria
Cano and Ana Torroja
My discovery: 1991
Possibly the most successful Spanish group of all time was the brainchild
of two Madrid teenagers and the little brother of one of them. The
trio of Mecano hit the Spanish pop charts with their refined pop
sense, lyrics about everyday life and the voice clear as crystal
of Ana Torroja.
Not officially disbanded, its members have invested most of their
energy since the early 90s in their respective solo careers.
Mylène FARMER (née Mylène GAUTIER)
Born: 1961 (Pierrefonds, Canada)
First album: 1986
My discovery: 1995
With stylish pop songs (composed by Laurent Boutonnat), extravagant
music videos and a whole variety of stage personas, Mylène
Farmer became a major French artist already with her first album.
And she has never looked back since. Besides that she has grown
into a major lesbian pop icon - albeit a not very outspoken one,
making her a sort of Greta Garbo of pop.
Catherine LARA (née Catherine BAUDET)
Born: 1945 (Poissy, France)
First album: 1972
My discovery: c. 1997
Since the 70s, Catherine Lara has been one of the leading female
singers in France. She is classically trained and has used the violin
on many an occasion. And a singer with a persevering, passionate
temperament - one of her albums is appropriately named "La
rockeuse de diamants".
Formed: 2004 (Ripoll, Catalonia, Spain)
Last active: 2009 (?)
Members: Nú́ria Pons, Eudald Rota, Jordi Rudé and Santi Surroca
First album: 2006
My discovery: 2014
Indie pop ensemble, formed in 2004 and possibly dissolved. Their one and only album contains some really good songs, including "Ripoll m'agrada" (celebrating their home town). Listen to the whole album!