Arabesque by Jane Birkin

Posted on November 13, 2013 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

When I was a teenager, I became obsessed with everything 'French' because of their immaculate taste in art, fashion, design, culinary and cinema. I indulged in French cinema ( esp. Eric Rohmer ) and even spent 7 months living in Paris trying to improve my English-accented French learned from school here. During the time in Paris, I spent hours at Virgin or FNAC listening to new released CDs by French and other artists from around the world.




Even though I grew up listening to British pop, I never shared the Brits' sneering attitude towards French music. I think French music offers something completely different, often more poetic and diverse in style. As a teenager, I was introduced to Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, Les Rita Mitsouko, then Mylène Farmer, Alain Souchon, Liane Foly, Patricia Kaas and Enzo Enzo etc ( these days, I listen a lot to the talented Camille). 

As far as I can remember, the name Jane Birkin has always been associated with Serge Gainsbourg ( rather than the Hermès bag!) and their famous chanson, "Je t'aime... moi non plus". I would read news about the iconic singer/ actress/ activist now and again, but not paying too much attention until I watched a documentary on her visit to Fukushima in Japan after the tsunami disaster. Jane visited the area and gave a charity concert singing in French. Although most of the local residents did not know who she was nor did they understand her songs, they were moved by the emotions in her voice and her sincerity. I was rather touched by her actions and singing, and so when I found out that she was in town performing for one night only at the Barbican, I was eager to see her perform live.



It is hard for me to describe the evening because it was beyond my expectations in many ways. Jane reinterpreted Serge Gainsbourg’s classic songs with an infusion of Arabic music performed by Djamel Benyelles, and his band Djam & Fam. The music and performance by the band was faultless, but it was Jane who took me by surprise, despite the fact that she doesn't have the 'best' voice. However, her voice conveys a lot of emotions, and it is not necessary to understand all the lyrics to appreciate them. I also love her humour, sincerity, playfulness and sensitivity, it is hard to believe that she is already 66 years old, I wish I could be as cool when I reach that age ( I guess I have hope since we share the same zodiac sign)! The concert hall was almost full and the atmosphere was fantastic with the audiences giving her standing ovation at the end. She was also very touched by the overwhelming positive responses and claimed the evening to be "one of the happiest moments of her life".

Do the French have good taste? No doubt about that, just look at the English actresses who made it in France apart besides Jane Birkin, there is also Charlotte Rampling and Kristin Scott Thomas, who are all intelligent, natural and aging gracefully ( without the need of botox and personal trainer). There are some people who are born effortlessly cool and there are fewer of them who would become icons.

What can I say? Life has always been rather unfair.


This post was posted in London, Music & Sound and was tagged with London, music, Jane Birkin