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Féfé: hip hopping without the rebellion

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Féfé is described as rap, hip-hop, jazz, blues and many other things that are, or at least once were, the music of rebellion. There were also some early ska/reggae influences in the program of music presented by the French singer and his band at the Space Theatre last night. But don’t expect any rebellion from a Féfé show.

I read an interview Féfé gave in the lead-up to this tour. I didn’t learn much about him, but he said of his performances: “We’re really just trying to have fun, you know?” And so it was.

A nice-sized, well-dressed crowd (strongly weighted to females) filled the Space comfortably without crowding it. It was all audience participation from the outset – hand-waving, clap-alongs, even a “Simon says” routine where you move to the left or move to the right, kinetic and physical. The audience seemed well prepared from Féfé’s WOMAD outings and went right into groove from the first.

There were many elements: one song was really a hip-hop beat with chunking ska guitar offbeat fills, while two or three of the band performed synchronised dancing which was, for a moment, a throwback to 1960s soul music presentations. So, three styles in one song there. A very good ska song followed, where the tempo speeded up to frenetic, then we moved to what was almost a parody of rap styles, with a nearly ironic distance maintained from the material. It seemed to be saying: that was rap, the music of our childhood.

Féfé’s voice is great. He hits low notes with power, and in the last third of the act some more serious songs were played which showed off his abilities and also those of his excellent band.

So, an interesting night; the hand-waving and feel-goods overshadowed, for me, the band and the singer from producing their absolute best. I was left to ponder how effete the music of rebellion can become. Think of punk becoming New Wave, Heart of Glass, New Romantic and then straight disco/rave. So, too, hip-hop has segued into Féfé; no bad language, no cross attitudes, just a jolly good time.

Féfé performed at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Space Theatre as part of the Sessions series of live music gigs taking place throughout January.

 

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