An Inside Look at French Music Culture
This fall I had the opportunity to be one of sixteen students who hosted a foreign exchange student from France for ten days. Not only was this an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge of the French language, but I was able to meet who is now one of my best friends. Emie Coiret taught me about everyday French culture, and opened my mind to how different life is based on where you live.
As we were figuring out who we were going to host, we received letters from the French students explaining who they were. I felt drawn to Emie because she seemed a lot like myself. As their arrival approached, I became nervous about the language barrier and whether we would get along. The experience as a whole couldn't have been better, as Emie had amazing English and I was able to speak more French as I listened to her speak and picked up new words and phrases. As we drove to school every morning together, I would put on the radio and put on the "Today's Top Hits" playlist on Spotify in an attempt to introduce her to American music. To my surprise, she knew nearly every song that came on the radio, including Too Good by Drake and Rihanna! When I asked her how she knew this, she told me that in France all the young people listen to American music. I was fascinated by this, amused as every song that came on she would sing and hum along to with me.
One night as we were watching Project Runway, I thought that it would be interesting to ask her some questions about the music culture in France, and how it relates and compares to American music culture. I created a list of questions to ask her, and we sat down together to discuss them.
How is the music different in France than it is here?
It is not very different because all of us, all generations, listen to American songs. We just have some French singers.
What kind of American music do French teenagers typically listen to?
R&B and American rap, mostly. Anything that is popular in America, we listen to.
Are there concerts and music festivals? Do people travel for them?
Yes, a lot. The biggest festival is Les Vieilles Charrues (http://www.vieillescharrues.asso.fr/2016/), but there are many others. There are also a lot of concerts. The most popular are located in Le Stade de France, L'Olympia, and Zenith. These are the places for the most important and famous people. However, there are also lots of concerts in the streets and in bars. People travel for them, but only for the biggest ones, like Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga.
Who is your favorite artist? What are your favorite songs at the moment?
I love Rihanna, Macklemore, Major Lazor, and MZ. (MZ is a French rap band who are extremely popular in France right now.) My favorite songs right now are Do Ya Like by Logic and Noir C'est Noir by MZ.
What would you say is the most popular genre of music in France?
There is two popular types, I think. For young people, I think rap and American music. For older generations, I think 70's or 80's, like Claude Francois, but also Madonna and Michael Jackson. (Claude Francois is a French singer, songwriter, and dancer. He sold around 70 million records during and after his career ended due to being accidentally electrocuted to death in 1978.)
Is music important in French culture?
Yes, the music is everywhere. It is I think just as important to French culture as it is in American culture.
This experience as a whole was not only so much fun for both Emie and myself as we got to know each other, but was educational for both of us as well. While Emie is now back in France, we still communicate about new music that comes out. I would encourage anybody who has the opportunity to host an exchange student to do it, whether it's for ten days, ten weeks, or ten months. In only ten days, I was able to learn about the French culture in ways that I couldn't learn through books.
"Merci", Emie, for this interview! xo