French language music has always had a certain poetry to it, with more emphasis on lyrics, clever play on words and rhymes than on the actual melody. French music today is about more than just Edith Piaf and Celine Dion. Following on the footsteps of the US, France saw the emergence of urban musical styles like hip hop and rap. Those are actually thriving in France right now but artists like McSolaar, Neg Marrons or Doc Gyneco have kept their lyrics typically French with a great emphasis on puns, double entenders, suggestive phonetic combinations or the use of verlan (the practice of saying words backwords – verlan is the phonetic opposite of l’envers which means reverse).
One of the most popular hip hop style in French language music right now is “slam” a style that oscillates between hip hop, a one man show, poetry and verbal sparring. Here again, it’s all about words, and oftentime, songs are performed accapela, with no background music whatsoever. If you’re looking to experience this urban musical style for yourself, the 5th street Busboys and Poets will host one of the pioneers of Quebec’s hip hop movement, Webster, for a slam session of rhymtic poerty this Thursday, March 31st.
It’s no coincidence that rapper Ali Ndiaye chose Webster – as in the American lexicographer and political writer – as his nom d’artiste. Having studied history at the University level, Webster has a genuine understanding of the historical context surrounding Quebecois culture and he widely considered as a “grassroots hip hop historian” (This Magazine). His weapons of choice to denounce the woes of his generation, “the first of second-generation blacks” in Quebec, are words. Webster will bring his fervor and drive to a unique evening of passionate (French) prose at Busboys and Poets on Thursday March 31st. Sponsored by l’Alliance Française de Washington and the Educational and Cultural Departments of the French Embassy in Washington, the concert will start at 9PM, free for Alliance Francaise members, $8 for general admissions. Registration is required at (202) 234-7911.
This post also appears in The Triangle.