Axelle, Colette and the Blues

Guestpost! Sylvester on Axelle Red and Colette Magny:

Like anybody, the Francophone have the blues from time to time. They used to call it existentialism and nowadays the bestselling novels of Michel Houellebecq exhale it abundantly. But they don’t sing the blues. Just try the latest CD of Axelle Red, apparently one of the few bluesy singers in the French-speaking world. Her voice is quite harsh, which could very well go with singing the blues. But it doesn’t really. Perhaps it’s her diction which is to blame, her perfectionism, or just the fact that she was born in Hasselt, Belgium.
To be honest, I don’t particularly like the voice of Axelle Red, but I do like her good taste. On her new album Un coeur comme le mien are some very nice songs, well written and arranged. Among them is Melcoton, in 1963 the only hit-chanson of Colette Magny (1926-1997). Now, thát was a French blues singer! At least that is what often has been said about her. Magny herself preferred to be compared with Léo Ferré, chansonnier par excéllence. For both of them singing often was a way to (rather militantly) spread a message. Magny was certainly influenced by Bessie Smith and other blues singers, but in the first place she will be remembered for her engagement: the way she sang about the Vietnam war, injustice, repression and environmental catastrophes. Sometimes she sounded quite bluesy, but her lyrics overshadowed rhythm and emotions.
In my next radio show at the Concertzender I will give you some examples.

Axelle Red – Melocoton
Colette Magny – Melocoton

Axelle et Aznavour

There aren’t that much certified filles fragiles who recorded Christmas-songs, alas. There’s of course Maryse Letarte (who recorded a whole seasonal album), there’s the EP by Tricot Machine, there’s the songs from FS X-Mas Project (Marianne Dissard, Maud Lübeck, Odile & Manou, etc), but other than that it’s mostly very kitschy, Céline Dion-like. This duet between Axelle Red & Charles Aznavour is from a reasonable album called Noël Ensemble that also sports duets between Katerine & Anna Karina and Calogero & Zazie. And a few turkeys.

Axelle Red & Charles Aznavour – Noël à Paris

Bye Bye Bobbejaan

Today Belgium lost one of its most remarkable (cult)icons for life. The day after he celebrated his 85th birthday, Bobbejaan Schoepen died of a heart-attack at the Turnhout hospital. He was famous because of his yodeling and whistling talent. Check a funny old video from the movie ‘At the the Drop of a Head’ (L’Ordonnance) from 1962 over here and see why he was often called the Belgium cowboy. Toots Thielemans taught him how to play the harmonica in 1951 while playing guitar in Bobbejaans band and – not coincidentally – Toots himself became a professional whistler too. Bobbejaan was the first European to do a gig at the famous Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, but wanted to spend more time back home with his wife.
In an attempt to quit touring that much, he bought a castle in 1959, which he turned into a place for variete. Nowadays this place is called ‘Bobbejaanland’, a very big amusement park for families with kids. This park made Bobbejaan a very fortunated man.
In 2008 the Belgium cowboy returned to his roots as he recorded a highly recommended come-back album simply called ‘Bobbejaan’. Acoustic mostly, fragile and intense songs on the edge of country and singer-songwriting. He also planned to release a new live-album later on this year… Don’t know whether these tracks were already recorded or not, but luckily for us he left us with two breathtaking duets on his last album.
Bye Bye Bobbejaan, I do hope the pubs up-there are well equipped!

Bobbejaan Schoepen – Café Sans Export (From the movie L’Ordonnance)
Bobbejaan Schoepen & Geike Arnaert – Le Temps des Cerises
(Clip @ YouTube)
Bobbejaan Schoepen & Axelle Red – Je Me Suis Souvent Demandé