From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
France has long been considered a centre for European art and music. The country boasts a wide variety of indigenous folk music, as well as styles played by immigrants from Africa, Latin America and Asia. In the field of classical music, France has produced a number of legendary composers, while modern pop music has seen the rise of popular French hip-hop, techno/funk, and pop performers.
The late 1800s saw the dawn of the music hall when Yvette Guilbert was a major star. The era lasted through to the 1930s and saw the likes of Félix Mayol, Lucienne Boyer, Marie-Louise Damien, Marie Dubas, Fréhel, Georges Guibourg, Tino Rossi, Jean Sablon, Charles Trenet and Maurice Chevalier, Édith Piaf. During the 50s and 60s, it was the golden age of Chanson française (Monique Serf (Barbara) Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré, Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel).
In particular, electronic music, as exemplified by Jean Michel Jarre, achieved a wide French audience. The French electro-pop bands Air and Daft Punk and techno artists Laurent Garnier and David Guetta found a wide audience in the late 1990s and early 2000s, both locally and internationally. Electronica groups such as Télépopmusik, Justice, and M83 continue to enjoy success.
Chanson française is the typical style of French music (chanson means "song" in French) and is still very popular in France. The most important classic artists include of the Édith Piaf, Monique Serf (Barbara) Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré, Charles Aznavour and Jacques Brel plus the more art-house musicians like Brigitte Fontaine.
During the 70s, new artists modernized the Chanson française, (Renaud, Francis Cabrel, Alain Souchon, Jacques Higelin, Lavilliers) and also in the 80s (Étienne Daho, Têtes Raides) till now (Matthieu Chedid, Jean-Louis Murat, Miossec, Mathieu Boogaerts, Daniel Darc, Vincent Delerm).
The more commercial and pop part of "chanson" is called "variété", and included artists including Francis Cabrel, Alain Souchon, Laurent Voulzy, and Jean-Jacques Goldman. More recently, the success of the Star Academy television show has spawned a new generation of young pop music stars including Jenifer Bartoli and Nolwenn Leroy; and the superstar status of diva Mylene Farmer inspired pop rock performers like Zazie, Lorie and Alizée, and R&B-influenced singers like Nadiya and Ophelie Winter.
In the 1950s, Elvis Presley and rock and roll made inroads in the French music scene. It produced stars like Johnny Hallyday, Richard Anthony, and Claude François, the popular yé-yé girls like Sylvie Vartan and some various music genre like Dalida, who can do anything like Italian style music in 50s; twist, pop and rock in the 60s (and later pop, disco, new wave and rock in the 70s and 80s). These were popular female teen idols, and included Françoise Hardy, who was the first to write her own songs.
Singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg began as a jazz musician in the 1950s and spanned several eras of French popular music including pop, rock, reggae, new wave, disco and even hip hop filtered through his unique sense of black humor, heavily laden with sex.
Though rock was not extremely popular until the 70s, there were innovative musicians in France as the psychedelic rock trend was peaking worldwide. Jean-Pierre Massiera's Les Maledictus Sound (1968) and Aphrodite's Child's 666 were the most influential. Later came bands such as Magma, Martin Circus, Au Bonheur des Dames, Trust, Téléphone, Indochine, Noir Désir, and musicians Marcel Dadi, Paul Personne, Jean Pierre Danel, Bireli Lagrene, etc.
In the early 70s, Breton musician Alan Stivell (Renaissance de la Harpe Celtique) launched the field of French folk-rock by combining psychedelic and progressive rock sounds with Breton and Celtic folk styles.
France became one of the leading producers of prog rock in the 1970s. Aficionados worldwide were enamoured by recordings like Ange's Le Cimetiere des arlequins, Pulsar's Halloween, Shylock's Ile de Fievre, Atoll's L'Araignee-Mal and Eskaton's Ardeur. Most well-known, however, may be the band Magma, whose 1970 debut, Magma, used free jazz and lyrical references to science fiction. The band later used Indian and electronic styles.
In the 1980s, French rock spawned a myriad of styles, many closely-connected with other Francophone musical scenes in Switzerland, Canada and especially Belgium. Pub rock (Telephone), psychobilly (La Muerte), pop punk (Les Thugs), synth pop and punk rock (Bérurier Noir, Bijou, Gill_Dougherty) were among the styles represented in this era.
Punk rock had arisen in the 1970s and continued into the next decade, perhaps best represented by Oberkampf and Métal Urbain. 80s progressive rock peaked early in the decade, with Dun's Eros, Emeraude's Geoffroy and Terpandre's Terpandre, all from 1981, representing the genre's pinnacle.
French house is a late 1990s form of house music, part of the 1990s and 2000s European dance music scene and the latest form of Euro disco. The genre is also known as "Disco house", "Neu-disco" (new disco), "French touch", "filter house" or "tekfunk". The early mid/late 1990s productions was notable for the "filter effect" used by artists such as Daft Punk. Other productions use more mainstream vocals and samples.
French house is greatly influenced by the 1970s Euro disco and especially the short lived space disco music style (a European (mostly French) variation of Hi-NRG disco), and also by P-Funk and the productions of Thomas Bangalter
The first French house experiments (at the time called "disco house" and "neu disco") became notable in the international market between 1997-1999. Daft Punk, Stardust and Cassius were the first international successful artists of the genre and their videos show their "space disco" roots.
Hip hop music came from New York City, invented in the 1970s by African Americans. By 1983, the genre had spread to much of the world, including France. Almost immediately, French performers (musicians and breakdancers) began their career, including Thony Maskot, Frank II Louise, Max-Laure Bourjolly, Farid Berki, Traction Avant and Black Blanc Beur. Popularity was brief, however, and hip hop quickly receded to the French underground. Hip-hop was adapted to French context, especially the poverty and violence of large cities known as banlieues ("suburbs") where many French of foreign descent live, especially from the former colonial countries (West Africa and Maghreb, Caribbean). If there is some influence of African musics and of course American hip hop, French hip-hop is also strongly connected to French music, with strong reciprocal influences, from french pop and chanson, both in music and lyrics.
Paname City Rappin (1984, by Dee Nasty) was the first album released, and the first major stars were Suprême NTM, IAM and MC Solaar, whose 1991 Qui Sème le Vent Récolte le Tempo, was a major hit. Through the nineties, the music grew to become one of the most popular genres in France with huge success of the pioneers (IAM, NTM) and newcomers (Ministère Amer, and Lunatic). France is the world's second-largest hip-hop market. The most selling rappers in the 00s are Diam's and Booba with successful artists more underground like La Rumeur, la Caution and TTC.
France has long had a large Algerian minority, a legacy of colonial domination of that country.
Beginning in the 1920s raï developed in Algeria as a combination of rural and urban music. Often viewed as a form of resistance towards censorship, many of the conventional values of the old raï became modernized with instruments, synthesizers and modern equipment. Later performers added influences from funk, hip hop, rock and other styles, creating most notably a pop genre called lover's raï. Performers include Rachid Taha and Faudel. This time was when the music started getting popular among the Maghrebi populace of France. Originating in the lower-class slums of the city of Oran, raï shot to the top of the French charts in 1992 with the release of Khaled's self-titled album Khaled. Rai continues to be an identity marker, and aided with the creation of the Arab identity in France. Social and economic problems continue in the banlieus of France, and thus, the verlan slang music will continue. <ref>Gross, Joan, David McMurray, and Ted Swedenburg. "Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap, and Franco-Maghrebi Identities." Diaspora 3:1 (1994): 3- 39. [Reprinted in The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader, ed. by Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo, 1</ref>
Raï as a musical form has tonal differences that go up and down, and has adopted beats that sound like pop. Much of the music is sung in Arabic, and differ depending on the country where it has immigrated. In France, a majority of raï music is a mixture of Arabic and verlan French.