44. Modern gipsy music

Posted on 07/04/2017

44. Modern gipsy music

Le Caravane Passe are an excellent french gipsy group. French gipsy groups have a  long history, going back to Django Rheinhardt’s Hot Club of Paris in the 1930’s. The modern version is still based on an accoustic guitar driven beat, but with lots of elements that come from jazz, pop and balkan music. So its more of a ‘world gipsy’ music effect. The band began in 2001 with Toma Peterman and Olivier Lugany and now has half a dozen members.

Their signature tune is ‘La touche manouch’ (the Gipsy Touch):

As you will see its a hyperactive life depicted there, with non-stop costume changes. The lyric is based on the ‘gipsy touch’ idea with both the principal artists featuring acoustic guitars at various times, to emphasise the gipsy tradition. The song is about their gipsy dreams, but they come back to being called Romain and Michel (as the labels they stick on each other’s heads state).

On rêve de Bohême, de routes, de Romanichels
Mais en fait on s’appelle
Romain, Michel
T’as la touche, manouche
T’as les g’noux qui s’touchent
Tu rêves d’être super manouche
Un Django qui file la pêche à la mouche
Ouais, t’as la touche, manouche
T’as les g’noux qui s’touchent
Tu rêves d’être super manouche
Un Django qui file la pêche à la mouche

‘We dream of being bohemian [though Romanichel carries a pejorative meaning, as in ‘theiving’ gipsy)]. We’re just ordinary guys (Romain, Michel) but we have the gipsy touch and we dream of being Django (the greatest gipsy guitarist of them all)’.

An interesting version of the song was created by DJ Click, shown in the track below. He took both the original song and an instrumental version that La Caravane Passe had also recorded:

Shouf la Chapka is another medley of style. A ‘chpka’ was a 19th Century Polish offers hat (one of the founders of the group is partly Polish). The refrain is ‘shoufle shoufle comme un pacha’ (walk grandly like a prince). This takes the imagery down to the Balkans when they were under Turkish control.

But most of it is just horsing around to a merry melody

The song contains a series of lists:

hip hop kalashnikov, pachyderme

socialiste, sovietique

satanique,   anticapitaliste

This gives an idea of the zany illogicality of the lyric, which of course is part of its charm, together with the nonsensical randomness of the video.

Non stop fun below in ‘moustache on the stage‘ in which they portray almost every notable personality who has ever worn a moustache, and many ladies (Melina Mercouri and Mona Lisa) who never knowingly did. But it makes for a jolly song.

Indeed the typical Caravan Passe song is a series of amusing lists. In the lyric, the name of each mustachiod person is followed by a suitable subtitle or shriek or some imitation of what the person involved might have sounded like.

The last video is a song in honour of Rachid Taha. He is welcomed as an honoured guest in this video. He is of an earlier generation and is originally of Algerian background. His early work was as a DJ popularising Algerian ‘rai’ music. He is in part a political activist as well as musician and producer. He adds a jovial presence to this song.

Taha is quoted in Wikipedia as saying:

 “I’ve never wanted to just stay in my own neighborhood, my own community … It’s a kind of conformism. You have to be adventurous.”[6] He does not like contemporary French cinema and said “I’d much rather watch some dumb Hollywood movie than another haute bourgeois auteurist piece of crap.”[6]

 That is telling them! And he fits very well with the spirit of the modern world gipsy culture espoused by La Caravane qui Passe.

 

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