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Colonising the world one French hit at a time

Music

Ahead of her headline performance at French music festival So Frenchy So Chic in January, Parisian pop powerhouse Camille reflects on why Adelaidians should embrace a new wave of chanson francaise.

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Camille Dalmais is no stranger to international audiences, with her songs appearing on popular children’s films Ratatouille and The Little Prince, as well as American television program Saturday Night Live.

Her hit 2005 song “Ta Douleur” – recognisable for its playful mix of body percussion and voice – bolstered her onto the world stage in the mid-2000s, including in Australia, where it reached number 26 in the 2006 Triple J Hottest 100 countdown.

Camille is now gearing up to make her second trip to Australia – and first trip to Adelaide – to perform for her growing legion of fans at French music festival So Frenchy So Chic. It will take place at Pinky Flat in January as part of the Adelaide French Festival, which launches its full program today.

“I’m very touched that the Australian people like the music of the French – the musicality, the centrality of French expression,” Camille tells InDaily from her Paris recording studio.

“French music at the moment is in a very good phase – it’s very creative and open and fun.

“I feel it’s more authentic and personal than it used to be maybe 10, 15 years ago.”

According to Camille, authenticity in music is heavily linked to language.

As more mainstream European pop artists abandon their native tongue to release more commercial and universally appealing English tracks, she believes the global music industry risks becoming homogenised.

“I live in France and I write in French because of course I’m aware that language is culture and culture is spirituality and spirituality is politics, and you can colonise the world with a language,” she says.

“It’s very important to master your own language – even if it’s a regional or national language – because it’s your land, it’s your identity, it’s your roots.

“I feel as an artist it’s my duty in a way to make my own language evolve in a good way and carry my vibe and good energy.”

Camille performing on stage. Photo: Grand Duc

That vibe, however, has been strained by the recent spate of terrorist attacks in France.

Camille says music has played an important role in Paris to quell people’s anxiety during a time of escalating fear and racial tension.

“Lately France has gone through difficult events and we talk about crisis all the time – it’s just crisis, crisis, crisis – but I think artists are there to pacify and make things dynamic and energise people,” she says.

“I want to make French something happy because even if you don’t understand French, I really try to use the language so that my songs sound well to everyone.

“I don’t want to make it so that they are an English song in French, I want them to be a French song in French.”

The songstress describes her music as telling “very personal and very organic” stories that traverse themes ranging from love and relationships to food and language.

She has been described as a pioneer in solo a cappella music, often blending electronic beats with beatboxer sounds.

“I love textures, I love minimalism, but I love psychedelism, too,” she says.

“There are a lot of mantras – I repeat words over and over again to create rhythm and to dive into the textures of the words, to stretch their words out with sound.

“But I really just work on my body and my voice because that’s the centre of everything – that’s where it starts.”

So Frenchy So Chic will come to Adelaide in 2019 after a successful debut event this year. Next year’s event features an all-female line-up, including girl band Yelle and solo pop artists Clara Luciani and Cléa Vincent.

“They’re all great artists doing some really amazing things with their music at the moment,” Camille says.

“What I aim for with my show is for everyone to be happy and loving and up and dancing.

“I like to start shows with something little and then it grows a bit on you and all of us and it grows on the neighbourhood and it grows on the whole world.”

The 2019 Adelaide French Festival program runs from January 11-13, with other highlights including contemporary dance work Mon Chi Chi, by dance duo Wang Ramirez; an exhibition of designs by Breton fashion designer Pascal Jaouen; a performance work called L’Apres-Midi D’un Foehn, which sees plastic bags “brought to life by a mysterious ballet master”, and a photographic exhibition by French artist Charles Freger. The festival also encompasses food and wine events.

The full So Frenchy So Chic program can be viewed here, while the French Festival program is online here.

 

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