UN Women releases its official anthem on International Women’s Day
The first UN agency to have its own theme song, UN Women have released its official anthem today, marking International Women’s Day. Originally performed in 2011, the track has become an anthem for the UN organisation dedicated to gender equality issues and the empowerment of women. ‘One Woman’ was composed by Graham Lyle and British-Somali singer-songwriter Faham Hassan while the lyrics were penned by Beth Blatt, founder of the charity Hope Sings.
The song was inspired by the stories of women who had been supported by UN Women and the agency hopes that ‘One Woman’ ‘will become a rallying cry that inspires listeners about the mission of UN Women and engages them to join in the drive for women’s rights and gender equality.’
Jerry Boys, who has produced albums by Ali Farka Touré, Buena Vista Social Club and Omara Portuondo, produced the song with Blatt. Among the participating artists are some Songlines favourites: Rokia Traoré; Angélique Kidjo; and Anoushka Shankar. Other contributors include Zhang Liangying (China), Ximena Sarinana (Mexico), Yuna (Malaysia) and Vanessa Quai (Vanuatu).
Watch the official video below
In the current issue (#90, March 2013) Philip Sweeney examines the defining artists and history of French chanson. To follow on from the issue, here are introductory biographies of selected artists mentioned in the feature.
From his teenage fascination with jazz as an art student, via his huge success in the 30s, to his rediscovery as national treasure in the Mitterrand years, the author of ‘La Mer’ dominated French song until his death in 2001.
Édith Giovanna Gassion, stage-named Piaf, or sparrow, rose from poverty in the workers’ quarter of Belleville to consecration in the 50s and 60s as France’s musical ambassadress and the embodiment of the passionate theatricality of a principal strand of chanson.
Brel arrived from Brussels in the 50s Rive Droite cabaret world of Paris as an austere young singer-guitarist, earning the nickname ‘l’Abbé Brel’ (Father Brel). He became a powerful performer and brilliant writer. His 1977 comeback after ten years of retirement in Polynesia was a major event in French music. A year later he died.
Born in the Mediterranean port of Sète, Brassens emerged into 50s Paris as a workers’ poet, an anarchist-aesthete, who wrote songs prolifically and performed with a strangely effective mixture of timidity and bawdiness.
Born in Monaco, Ferré started his career in the celebrated restaurant-cabaret Le Boeuf sur le Toit in 1946, on the same bill as the young Charles Aznavour. Apart from his own complex, allusive song-poems, Ferré adapted Baudelaire and Rimbaud, produced an opera and an oratorio and espoused the post-1968 rock revolution, before retiring to Tuscany.
Born in Montpellier and raised in Bordeaux, Gréco was imprisoned as a member of the resistance during the Occupation, began acting in the 40s and debuted as a singer at Le Boeuf sur le Toit, prompted by Jean-Paul Sartre, going on to become an icon of 50s Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Monique Andrée Serf, aka Barbara, was born in Paris, studied singing at Paris Conservatoire and made her name in the Rive Gauche chanson clubs of the 50s, particularly l’Écluse, where her intensely dramatic, virtuoso vocal performances earned her the tag ‘la chanteuse de minuit.’
Lucien Ginsburg began as support act to the bohemian songwriter and novelist Boris Vian, and wrote hits for a roster of glamorous female artists, including Juliette Gréco and Brigitte Bardot. His own work drew upon sources from classic chanson to rock and reggae, all marked with his strikingly original lyrical talent.
Born in 1944 in Paris, a demure and beautiful 17-year-old political science student sent an amateur recording of her song ‘Tous les Garçons et les Filles’ to Disques Vogue. It sold two million copies and launched Hardy on a career in which her simple, fragile voice matured into one of the most respected in French popular music.
Born in Casablanca in 1944, singer and actor Souchon’s formative influence was as much the Beatles as Brel and Brassens, and, with his song-writing partner Laurent Voulzy, he has always steered a path between instrumental fascination with things Anglo-American and a serious lyrical intent.
Founder Christian Olivier, an art student fan of the Clash, gradually moved closer to the world of chanson as lyrics became more central to his music. By the late 90s, the band had half a dozen successful albums and a sold-out month’s season at Paris’ Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, the old music hall once home to the greats of chanson realiste.
The future leader of chanson minimaliste began as an impecunious amateur rocker in Nantes. His back-to-basics record ‘Le Courage des Oiseaux,’ recorded in his bedroom on a Casio synthesizer, was a succès d’estime with the Paris public, his recipe described as “a modern flirt with the highest traditions of Barbara…”
Once categorised as a singer of ‘chanson bébête’ – silly chanson – Katerine is a soft-voiced, irreverent faux-innocent and leading figure of new chanson of the 90s. After a conservative Catholic upbringing, he began home recording and writing and producing for other artists.
The singer-songwriter and producer, often spoken of as the new Gainsbourg studied music in the conservatoire of his native Lyon, and started his rise to fame with local group the Affaire Louis Trio, before his first solo album created unstoppable momentum as a performer, writer and producer.
To read the full feature, including a selected discography, see p36 in the current issue of Songlines (#90).
Want to get in the festive spirit without the aid of Cliff Richard and Slade? Then help is at hand, thanks to these timely new releases from around the world…
Belshazzar’s Feast Stocking Fillers
Darker and more brooding Xmas carols for those who like their feasting with a little more spice.
Bella Hardy Bright Morning Star
Folk numbers nestle with cheesy pop classics on this seasonal offering from the Derbyshire folk singer.
The Sweetback Sisters The Sweetback Sisters’ Country Christmas Singalong Spectacular
Good ol’ fiddling and harmony singing on a series of stateside country classics for the festive season.
Cerys Matthews Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Christmas Classics from…
All those Xmas classics – both Christian and otherwise – plus a nod to Wales with ‘Y Darlun.’
Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band Carols & Capers
A ‘Best Of’ album full of the festive favourites and Renaissance instruments.
Gary US Bonds Christmas is ON!
Some Christmas cheer from the 73-year-old rhythm and blues man.
Last Saturday, Oscar D’León and his big band performed at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm for his first London show in years.
Before the salsa superstar had even appeared on stage, the venue was packed and spontaneous salsa dances were breaking out all around me. The energy was already high by the time D’León walked out to a huge applause, sporting his iconic moustache, which seemed only appropriate for the first weekend of ‘Movember.’
Even though my attempts at salsa would be more aptly described as ‘spasms’ rather than ‘dancing,’ I couldn’t help myself, and before too long I was moving my feet and wagging my hips.
With moves like his and a voice that can still belt out the classics, you’d hardly be able to guess D’León is 69 years old. Known for his dance tunes, the evening seemed to lose a bit of momentum during his slower numbers. Despite this, the sonero delivered a brilliant performance that kept the audience dancing all night long and left everyone with a smile on their face. I managed to make it home with a few bruised toes as well, but it was totally worth it.
You can read our Beginner’s Guide to Oscar D’León in the current issue (Nov/Dec 2012, #88) or online here.