Musique de France
I’ve been to Paris a lot in the last year or so. When I get offered DJ gigs in the city, I usually say yes and, if possible, stay for an extra day or three. At the time of the terrorist attacks in the 10th and 11th arrondissements a year ago I was at home in Manchester, but I know the area quite well. In 2010 I saw Trentemøller perform at the Bataclan. A journalist working for Les Inrocks, a French magazine I sometimes write for, was murdered in the theatre. A club promoter I met in 2013 lost seven friends at one of the bars.
In January I was in Paris walking to the Inrocks office and I paused to look at the flowers and other tributes laid out on the pavement opposite the Bataclan. I took it personally. It was an attack on my tribe; hundreds of music fans, and all the party people on the pavements outside the city’s bars. Islamic State issued a press statement claiming Paris was targeted as it was ‘the capital of prostitution and vice’. The Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan theatre was described as a ‘profligate prostitution party’. Most of what Islamic State denounces about Paris – the city that coined the word ‘discotheque’ – is most of what I love about it.
Islamic State literature talks about a ‘grey zone’. Originally the phrase was used with reference to Muslims who live happily alongside their neighbours of all faiths and types. Now it can be more generally applied to any space (social, cultural) where views find common ground. Islamic State wants a world without ambiguity, a world of binary choices. Their stated aim is to foment conflict and destroy the grey zone. An extreme response is exactly what Islamic State wants. A growing zone of coexistence is their biggest fear.
When I went to see Foals in concert at L’Olympia in February it was clear that French music lovers were more than just resilient. After going through two lines of security to get into the venue, I found myself in the most exuberant crowd I’d ever seen in Paris. Venues and clubs are closing in London, but in Paris, just the other week, Salòopened. It describes itself as ‘un club artistique consacré aux mouvements alternatifs attachés aux principes de contre-culture, d’indépendance ou de libre-expression’.
In March I began hanging out with a girl who runs lesbian parties at various clubs in Paris; she booked me to play a midsummer event. It was a delight: hundreds of exuberant people at a semi-open air venue overlooking the Seine. On that trip I also saw a couple of DJs, Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho, a.k.a. Acid Arab, perform at a pop-up venue on an industrial estate somewhere at the end of a bus route. They have just released their first album, which includes collaborations with Algerian and Turkish musicians, and a band called A-WA, made up of three Israeli sisters who combine Yemenite folk singing with electronic dance music. The album is called Musique de France.