The Mayor That Was Me

The Mayor That Was Me

Occitan Festival, March 2014

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This event is held every March in the village of Canet d'Aude, between Lézignan and Narbonne, every year.  On the four Saturdays of March, there are theatre, drama and musical events, for those particularly interested in the Occitan culture and way of life.

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The interest in Occitan culture and way of life is spreading rapidly, especially among young people.  Some are traditionists, yes, but many are pushing the boundaries of the music way past where they found it, with interesting results.  They use modern instruments (The Cathars did not have guitars, for example) and presentation skills; they are Occitan people simply living their lives in their own language, but those lives are modern in concept.  Many are young; when I started listing to Radio Languedoc, I found it quite amazing to hear so many reggae songs!  But why not?   I have found that the Occitan culture is never harking back to some old way of life, never nostalgic, but is a way of life of people, often young people, proud of their Occitan heritage of poetry and song, of nature and laughter and love.

Always the best entertainment for the last night!

Patric calls himself a troubadour, but there's two of them in the group, I never did find out the name of the other!  Patric is very famous on the Occitan scene.

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  He told us something about himself; he came from Sète, on the Mediterranean between Béziers and Montpellier, and when he was a child the fishermen all spoke in Occitan.  He went to University in Montpellier where his tutor helped him realise his idea to sing in Occitan, the language of his grandfather;  his grandmother was Greek.  He had always lived by the sea, by the Mediterranean.

  Patric came to Sète as a poor fisherman; now he is world famous for his music and his promotion of the language Esperanto.

  His first song was a classic about the Crusade against the Cathars - Béziers, Caracassone, Toulouse - and his second was a folk-song that I had heard before, I certainly knew it, and then thoughts of my previous life came to mind . . .

  Then I had the first surprise of the evening.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing and grabbed my camera and switched it onto "movie." Was this blues or was it blues?  What's more it was pure Robert Johnson!  In a French village hall I was listening to an Occitan song Robert Johnson style; after the show the guitarist told me he had designed this.  I thought he was quite brilliant!

  They were good entertainers so here's a selection that will interest you; first a popular Occitan song, Bella Ciao Ciao. Pure enjoyment.  Then those wonderful blues.  Then another surprise.  It was the eve of the election and our mayor was actually in the audience.  So the song - in French - was a joke about elections; played as rock'n'roll! 

  I must remind you that my camera cost me only 40€ some five years ago; but it served me well that night, even if I was standing too close to the speakers.  And my last surprise was the last song, when some of the audience came on stage to sing too.  I compiled these four songs into a film - click here

  This last song is the sort of Occitan National Anthem.  Here's my (free) translation of the words;
Under my window a little bird is singing, all night he sings his song. If he sings because he sings he doesn't sing for me, he sings for my softness who is far from me. At the fontaine of Nîmes there is an almond tree which makes flowers white as paper. Those mountains so high prevent me from seeing my loves. They are high but they lower themselves and my lovers come near. Lower yourself mountains, raise up plains, so that I can see the place where my lovers are.  There are choruses between some of the lines.

  Meanwhile, you can see a more smoothly produced version, full of emotion, beautifully done, by clicking here.



23/03/2014
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