100 ESSENTIAL BRAZILIAN SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 1: Overview


Music is one of the most powerful cultural expressions of a nation, a sort of thermometer which reflects the history and mood of the people at a certain time, whether they feel happy, troubled, or oppressed.

And this is certainly true for Brazil: throughout the years music has been drawing the face of the country, mirroring Brazilians’ joy, uncertainties and longings…

Whoever has been in Brazil has most likely realized that music is deeply rooted into Brazilians’ DNA. Music is everywhere, accompanying every single mundane activity: Brazilians have fun with music, travel with music, prepare feijoada with music. And they dance… When I first visited Brazil I was amazed to see that just by hearing samba in the street, everybody -kids and grown-ups alike- would start dancing, as something natural, without inhibitions of any kind…

I love Brazil, its beautiful nature, its people, culture and music… Thus, I decided to pay a tribute to Brazil’s music by choosing 100 among the most representative songs of all times… I believe that after listening to all these songs you will realize -like I did- how timeless Brazil’s music is…

This introductory post will help you understand Brazilian music history and styles. More posts will follow presenting 100 iconic Brazilian songs in chronological order.

I hope you enjoy it!

Música do Brasil – Overview

Brazilian music originated from the fusion of indigenous, European and African elements, the latter brought mainly by Portuguese colonizers and the African slaves.

Until the 19th century, Portugal (and Europe for that matter) is the main gateway to most rhythms that would built Brazilian music, both erudite and popular. With the passage of time, African melodic and rhythmic elements begin to exert increasing influence on popular music, which would thus acquire the characteristic Brazilian sound that consolidates in the twentieth century, mainly through the diffusion of the genres lundu, frevo, choro and samba (see below). The indigenous practically left no trace in mainstream music, except in some regional folkloric genres.

In the twentieth century there is an extraordinary flowering of Brazil’s music. It is the period when national music gains autonomy and identity, although it never ceases – rather increases – the blend with new foreign rhythms. The fundamental work of Heitor Villa Lobos is the first great landmark of erudite Brazilian music, later developed by many other composers. During the same period, popular music gains the respect of elites and consolidates genres that would become trademarks of Brazil, such as samba and bossa nova. Regional folk genres such as musica sertaneja, baião and forró also gain popularity and are heard throughout the entire country.

Brazilian music styles


We all know samba and bossa nova, but Brazilian music is extremely rich and diverse. This is a brief summary of Brazil’s most important music genres:

The First Music Styles

These were some of the first styles that appeared in Brazil:

  • Lundu: brought by African slaves, it is one of the genres that would later compose samba.
  • Frevo: included on UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage, it is the traditional music of Pernambuco’s Carnival. Its trademark is the colorful umbrellas, which would “hide” the forbidden at that time capoeira (Afro-Brazilian martial art and dancing).
  • Choro: (means “cry”) a music gender originated in Rio de Janeiro. It is considered the first characteristic rhythm of Brazilian popular music, and is still very popular nowadays. In spite of its name, it usually has a fast, happy rhythm. Representative artists: Waldir Acevedo, Dominguinhos, Joaquim Callado, Pixinguinha and Luis Gonzaga (the later represents a regional form of choro called baiāo).
  • Maxixe: it is a mix of lundu with Argentinian tango, Cuban habanera and polca. It was considered so scandalous that caught international attention and travelled to Europe, together with tango. Maxixe contributed, together with lundu, to the origins of samba.

Contemporary Brazilian Music

These musical styles are Brazil’s trademark and are all listened nowadays.

Sertanejo

A music style that originated in Brazil’s countryside in the 1920s. It is the most popular music genre in Brazil, particularly throughout the southern/ southeastern and center/ western countryside. Sertanejo has seen a revival in the 90’s, regularly topping Brazilian music charts and earning a specific category at the Latin Grammy Awards. Representative artists: Sergio Reis, Chitãozinho & Xororó and Michel Teló.

Forró

When in 1945 the northeast musician Luiz Gonzaga recorded Dança Mariquinha, the genre  forró was launched – a rhythm and type of dance typical of the Northeast of Brazil. Given the vagueness of the term, there is no consensus on the definition of forró as a musical style, the name being usually used as a generalization of various musical rhythms of Northeast region.  Famous artists include Luiz Gonzaga, Wesley Safadão, and Solange Almeida.

Samba 

The year 1916 is considered the official birth of samba, a mix of maxixe with Bahia folklore rhythms. Samba rapidly spread throughout Brazil dominating not only its iconic carnival, but also the whole world. Samba is the most famous Brazilian musical style, and has many other sub genres:

  • Samba-canção: Appears in the 1920s, with slow rhythms and sentimental lyrics. Example: Ai Ioiô by Luís Peixoto.
  • Carnival Samba: composed by samba marches – known as marchinhas – and made to be danced and sung in carnival events. Examples: Abre alas, Cabeleira do Zezé, among others.
  • Samba-exaltação: With patriotic lyrics highlighting the wonders of Brazil, with orchestral accompaniment. Example: Aquarela do Brasil (see here).
  • Samba de breque: (literally brake samba) This style has moments of quick stops, where the singer includes comments, usually with critical or humorous tone. One of the masters of this style is Moreira da Silva.
  • Samba de gafieira: It was created in 1940 and has orchestral accompaniment. Fast and strong in the instrumental part, it is widely used in ballroom dancing. K-Ximbinho is a famous artist of this genre.
  • Sambalanço: Emerging in the 50s in nightclubs in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, it received a strong influence from jazz. One of the most significant representatives of Sambalanço is Jorge Ben Jor, which mixes elements of other genres too. This style would set the grounds for bossa nova.
  • Pagode: Born in Rio de Janeiro in the 70s, it has a repetitive rhythm and uses percussion instruments and electronic sounds. It spread rapidly throughout Brazil and conquered radios and dance floors in the next decade thanks to its simple and romantic lyrics. Representative artists are Fundo de Quintal, Negritude Jr., Só para contrariar, Raça Negra and Zeca Pagodinho.

Bossa Nova

Bossa nova is a Brazilian popular music movement of the late 50s initiated by João Gilberto, Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes and other young singers and/or songwriters from Rio de Janeiro. The style was derived from samba, with a strong jazz influence. Initially, the term bossa nova (“new wave”) was used only to describe a new way of singing and playing samba.

The ground zero of bossa nova is the song Chega de Saudade (see here). Bossa nova gave a more sophisticated touch to the samba genre; over the years, it would become one of the most influential movements in the history of Brazilian music, and the song Girl from Ipanema would be its anthem.

This style went through many transformations that resulted in a new generation of composers; new artists appeared in the music scenario who were collectively named Sons of bossa nova. Artists such as Geraldo Vandré and Chico Buarque are among the Sons of bossa nova, although their style has little or nothing to do with bossa nova (see MPB).

Tropicália

Originated by the end of the 60s after bossa nova, Tropicália was the next musical movement and came at a time when Brazil was undergoing political upheaval due to a strict military dictatorship. The rebellious lyrics of Tropicalia songs bothered the government, who decided to exile the most influential Tropicália artists, such as Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

Música Popular Brasileira (MPB)

Appreciated mainly by Brazil’s urban middle classes, Brazilian popular music – known as MPB – emerged in the 1960s with the Sons of Bossa Nova. MPB was the merge of two previously divergent musical movements: bossa nova (representing musical sophistication) and folk music (which defended Brazil’s music roots). As a result of the 1964 dictatorship, the two movements became a broad cultural front against the military regime; this new genre presented at first a distinct nationalistic profile, but with time it comprised more diverse trends of Brazilian music.

MPB also includes other mixtures of rhythms such as samba and rock – giving rise to a new style known as samba-rock – or pop and samba, with famous artists like Gilberto Gil and Chico Buarque. By the end of the 1990s the mixture of Latin music together with reggae and samba gave space to a new genre known as samba-reggae.

Even though extensive, MPB should not be confused as comprising all music of Brazil; it is rather a specific music style.

Funk Carioca

Originated in the 80s in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, the lyrics ususally describe favela life. In the 2000’s this genre would invade nightclubs, becoming a fashionable style across the country.

Although extremely successful, this genre is the target of strong criticism as performers use obscene and vulgar language, many times inciting to violence and drug consumption. See here for some of the most known funk artists.

Axé Music

Axé emerged in Bahia in the 80s during the Carnival of Salvador. It mixes frevo rhythms, reggae, merengue, forró, maracatu and other african-latino rhythms. The song Fricote by Luiz Caldas, is usually regarded as the starting point of this style.

The word “axé” is a religious greeting which means positive energy, used in Candomblé and Umbanda – religions with African origins which are commonly practiced in Bahia. It quickly spread throughout the country and still enjoyes great commercial success; its biggest names are Daniela Mercury, Ivete Sangalo, Claudia Leitte, Timbalada, among others.

 

References

https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Música_do_Brasil (in Portuguese)

https://web.archive.org/web/20091101115615/http://www.brazilcarnival.com.br/samba_schools/begining-of-samba-brazil-music-origins-of

http://thebrazilbusiness.com/article/brazilian-music-styles

https://theculturetrip.com/south-america/brazil/articles/10-traditional-brazilian-music-genres-you-need-to-know-about/

http://www.greatbrazilianlmusic.com/genres.htm

See also:

Coming soon:

  • The 1960s
  • The 1970s
  • The 1980s 
  • The 1990s
  • The 2000’s
  • 2010-2016

6 DAYS IN CAMPANIA, SOUTH ITALY – Days 1-3: Sorrento, Amalfi Coast

Naples, Pompeii, The Amalfi Coast, Campania has it all: breathtaking beauty, rich history, a strong character and delicious food! With its southern warmth – both humanly and climatically speaking – Campania is certainly a must-see when visiting Italy.

When to go: Arguably spring is a great to time to see Campania: blissful sunny days, colorful wild flowers, the smell of  lemon blossoms in the air… As idyllic as you picure it! Furthermore, you will avoid the crowds and the heat of the summer time. In any case, Campania is a very touristic destination, so even during spring expect to meet a lot of people visiting the area.

Where to stay: I believe Sorrento is the best spot for exploring the region’s highlights: Naples, Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii to the north, the magnificent Amalfi Coast southeast, and a few minutes aways from the iconic island of Capri.

Campania’s food: Needless to say, pizza is on its own enough reason to visit Campania. No matter how many times you have eaten pizza before, it is certain that here you will have the most delicious pizza of your lifetime! The secret: undoubtedly the simplicity of the flavors and the genuine ingredients…

Of course Campania’s cuisine is much more than just pizza. The typical cucina di Campagna is renowned across the globe for its seafood and fish specialities, but it also includes traditional mountain dishes. This sun-kissed region also has the undisputed merit of having contributed to the birth and spread of the celebrated Mediterranean diet, with the use of essential products like tomatoes, olive oil, vegetables and of course pasta!

But most likely the worldwide recognition of Campania’s regional cuisine is the result of the cleverness and artistry of the people of this area, who masterfully have made noble, even gourmet, the local ingredients once considered “food for the poor”.

In this post I propose you a guide to explore the region of Campania on a 6-day stay, so you can get to see the most of this magnificent area…

Day 1: SORRENTO

Located over straddling imposing cliffs overlooking the impressive Naples Bay, Sorrento is a great starting point to explore the area. A busy touristic destination during the summer, with a more pleasant and relaxed atmosphere during spring time.

Wander along the narrow streets of the charming old town, visit its beautiful Cathedral and lively Piazza Tasso and grab a bite at one of the numerous cafés. Finally, to get a different view of Sorrento, walk down to visit Marina Grande and Marina Piccola. And to finish your day at the seaside, eat some authentic wood-fired pizza at the ristorante Acqu’et sale.

Day 2: AMALFI COAST – POSITANO

 

Deservedly declared by UNESCO “World Heritage Site”, la Costiera Amalfitana is without any doubt one of the most beautiful places of Italy and one of the most breathtaking scenic drives of Europe. Nestled between the mountain and the sea cliffs, following the natural course of the coastline, every turn of the road surprises you with a spectacular shot.

There are 13 towns spreading across the Amalfi Coast, all with their unique beauty and charm. Visit them all if you have the time! But the undisputed “star” of the Coast is definitely picture-perfect Positano, a former fishing village that has become a first-class tourist destination.

You don’t get enough when walking along the picturesque roads. Therefore, Positano certainly deserves a whole day to discover.

Visit the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta, admire the numerous art galleries, and if the weather allows it, get suntanned at the picturesque Spiaggia Grande… And after a day of strolling -and most likely shopping- head to Ristorante Da Constantino for the most amazing panoramic view of the village, while you indulge yourself with some delicious scialatielli ai frutti di mare (pasta with shellfish), or any other of the many typical Campanian dishes the friendly staff of the restaurant will propose you.

Day 3: AMALFI COAST – AMALFI, RAVELLO

 

Amalfi, the town that gives its name to the coast, is another must-see in the Amalfi Coast. The beautiful Duomo di Sant’Andrea Apostolo (Cathedral of St. Andrew) with its impressive staircase, and the cute white houses clinging to the rock give a particular charm to this beautiful village. Besides the numerous cafés and ristorante, a stop at Pasticceria Savoia for a genuine italian gelatto is a must!After your visit to Amalfi, make a stop at picturesque Atrani and drive up -or even better, hike up!- the hills above Amalfi to reach elegant Ravello, a beautiful town known for its charming medieval streets, ravishing garden villas and majestic views. Ravello’s Italian refinement has managed, for centuries, to captivate famous musicians, actors and writers; so it comes to no surprise that it’s home not only to the renowned Ravello Festival, but also to a vibrant cultural scene.

Stroll along the narrow streets, visit Villa Rufolo, Villa Cimbrone and the Duomo, and to finish your visit with a touch of style, head to Ristorante Villa Maria for fine dining and a stunning view. Many of the delicious dishes you will savour at the restaurant -part of the eponymous boutique hotel– are made using biological products coming from the terraced gardens you can admire while you eat. And as a bonus, be sure to check the photos of the many celebrities that have stayed and dined here…

Coming up next: 6 days in Campania, South Italy – Days 4-6: Pompeii & Herculaneum, Mount Vesuvius & Napoli, Island of Capri

 

 Photo Credits

All the photos belong to woman2womenblog.com

10 GREAT BIOPIC FILMS ABOUT INSPIRING WOMEN

The International Women’s Day is over, but every day is a good opportunity to celebrate being a woman! And what could be better than watching a few inspiring movies?
For this post I chose 10 true story films about extraordinary women who were able to make a difference… They are all a source of inspiration and remind us that, for a woman, nothing is impossible!

1) HIDDEN FIGURES, 2016


Being a woman has never been easy. Imagine being a colored woman working at NASA in 1961! Hidden Figures tells the story of three bold African-American women, Katherine JohnsonDorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, outstanding mathematicians who surpassed race, gender and professional barriers and helped, with their bright minds, to achieve what has never been accomplished before by the human race, during the early years of USA’s space program.

This is powerful, awe-inspiring tribute to three “human computers”, as they were called at that time, played beautifully by Taraji P. Henson,  Octavia Spencer and  Janelle Monáe.

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2) WOMAN IN GOLD, 2015


This film tells the story of Maria Altmann, a courageous Jewish woman living in the USA, who had the strength to do what seemed impossible: she took to court the government of Austria, reclaiming a painting that had been stolen from her family by the Nazis. But this was not “any” painting: it was Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, considered at the time “the Mona Lisa of Austria”.

I loved Woman in Gold, it’s entertaining without never losing its emotional weight. Helen Mirren delivers an  exceptional performance as Maria Altmann, Ryan Reynolds is also great as her young lawyer, Randy Schoenberg.

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3) JACKIE, 2016

Remembered for her impeccable style and elegance, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is arguably one of America’s most popular First Ladies. But it would be unfair to think of her just as a fashion icon: Jackie’s contribution to the arts and preservation of historic architecture, her presence during John F. Kennedy’s political life -and death- were instrumental in creating a myth that persists nowadays.

Pablo Larrain’s film focuses on the days right after JFK’s assassination and presents a careful psychological portrait of Jackie, following her while she grieves, comforts her children and organizes her husband’s grandiose funeral. Natalie Portman is amazing in the role of Jackie Kennedy.

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4) ERIN BROCKOVICH, 2000

She was an unemployed, single mother who finally takes a job as a legal assistant. But when Erin Brockovich starts investigating the suspicious case of energy corporation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), accused of polluting a city’s water supply, she would involve her law firm in one of the biggest class action lawsuits in American history against a multi-billion dollar corporation.

Steven Soderbergh directed the film starring Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich; the film was critically acclaimed and received numerous awards.

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5) THE BLIND SIDE, 2009

The film is based on the true story of Leigh Anne Tuohy, a caring woman who takes in a homeless teenage African-American, Michael Oher. Leigh Anne not only treats him like another member of her family but, when he expresses his interest in football, she does everything in her power to help him succeed. And she makes it: Michael Oher becomes a renowned football player, who has been playing for several teams of the US National Football League.

The movie features Sandra Bullock, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Tuohy.

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6) THE IRON LADY, 2011


Margaret Thatcher was the first woman to become Prime Minister of Great Britain. Dubbed The Iron Lady due to her uncompromising politics and strong character, she managed to become the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century. In spite of being a highly controversial personality, she has been retrospectively described as one of the greatest politicians in British history.

The film, although interesting, did not impress the critics; nevertheless, Meryl Streep performance as Margaret Thatcher is outstanding, maybe one of her career’s finest.

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7) GORILLAS IN THE MIST, 1988

This movie is based on the story of Dian Fossey a naturalist who devoted her life to the study of primates. Travelling into deepest Africa, she becomes fascinated with rare mountain gorillas of the Rwandan jungle, and through close study, she developed a means of communicating with them. Moreover, she fought fiercely against poaching, helped preserve the gorilla’s natural habitat and was instrumental in saving them from extinction.

Gorillas in the mist was critically acclaimed, as well as Sigourney Weaver’s impersonation of Dian Fossey.

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8) LA VIE EN ROSE (LA MÔME), 2007

Édith Piaf is widely regarded not only as France’s national chanteuse, but also as one of the greatest performers of the 20th century. Her timeless music and unique voice are, till today, continuously celebrated (read more here).

This autobiographical film (in French La môme -The little sparrow) depicts wonderfully her great success as well as her tormented personal life. Marion Cotillard is magnificent as Piaf, a role that granted her international fame.

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9) EVITA, 1996

Arguably the most worshiped -and most hated- woman in Argentina’s history, Eva Duarte de Perón (affectionally named “Evita”) has certainly become a legend that transcended the country’s borders. Although rising from a low social environment, she marries Juan Domingo Perón and becomes the First Lady of Argentina until her death from cancer at 33 years old. Her huge political influence and constant charity works dazzled the working class but infuriated the military and upper classes. In spite of the controversy surrounding her, Evita was, undoubtedly, a fervent advocate of women’s rights: she campaigned for Argentine women’s right to vote and founded the first female political party.

This movie is a version of the successful musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim RiceEvita”; it features Madonna as Evita Perón and includes the iconic song “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.

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10) COCO BEFORE CHANEL (COCO AVANT CHANEL), 2009

French couturière Coco Chanel is regarded as one of the most innovative fashion designers and one of the most influential people of the 20th century. Her ideas were revolutionary, as she liberated women from the corset dresses that fashion dictated at that time and made popular a more sporty, casual style. Her timeless creations remain popular still today: the trademark suits and little black dress, her beloved leather bags and the iconic parfum Chanel No. 5 transformed her in “a symbol of French elegance”.

This film focuses on Coco Chanel’s life before becoming famous as a fashion designer. The role of Chanel is played wonderfully by French actress Audrey Tautou.

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What is your favorite film? Would you add any other to this list?

12 UNCONVENTIONAL CHRISTMAS FILMS YOU SHOULD WATCH THESE HOLIDAYS

Christmas is the perfect time to sit by the fireplace, contemplate the snow falling outside… and get an overdose of Christmas movies! If you are tired though of watching Home Alone or The Polar Express over and over again, check out this list with 12 more alternative movies to indulge yourself these holidays… and not only!

1) IN BRUGES, 2008

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christmas-films-in-bruges-posterTwo Irish hit-men (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) are sent by their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to the medieval Belgium city of Bruges in Christmas after a job gone wrong in a London church. While waiting for their next assignment, the most surreal events take place, and when the job is finally revealed, a life and death struggle ensues, which ends up having both melodramatic and hilarious consequences… This is a brillant, dark, existentialist, though-provoking film, actually a must-see no matter the time of the year.

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2) LE PÈRE NOËL EST UNE ORDURE (SANTA CLAUS IS A BASTARD), 1982

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If you like French comedy films (check my list here), you will love this one. Pierre and Thérèse, working for a suicide hotline on the night of Christmas Eve, get involved in the most unbelievable and crazy situations one can imagine. Irreverent and hysterically funny, with the always politically incorrect French humor. An all-time classic in France, a not-to-be-missed during the holidays.

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3) THE FAMILY MAN, 2000

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christmas-films-the-family-man-posterWall Street successful executive Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage), happily living his single life, wakes up on Christmas morning, and finds himself being married to his ex-girlfriend and having 2 children! Over the next few weeks, he gets a glimpse of what his life would have been like if he’d married her. This is a sweet, heart-warming movie that shows how the decisions we take can change us completely, and make us reflect on what are our priorities in life…

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4) LIFE OF BRIAN, 1979

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christmas-films-life-of-brian-posterThe origin of Christmas, told by the incomparable Monty Python. Brian of Nazareth is born in a stable on Christmas, right next to Jesus. We follow their parallel lives, and how, through the most incredible situations, Brian is mistakenly taken as the Messiah. The famous scene “Always look on the bright side of life” has remained as a cinematic all-time classic. Satirical, fast-paced, clever and funny, one of those films every cinephile should see at least once… 

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5) KISS KISS BANG BANG, 2005

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Snowless Christmas in Los Angeles is the background for this witty and dark comedy, where a thief (Robert Downey Jr) turned-actor-turned-detective teams up with a private detective (Val Kilmer) and a struggling actress (Michelle Monaghan) to solve a murder. The great acting, combined with Shane Black’s sharp writing and direction make this film a great choice for some Christmas fun.

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6) RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE, 2010

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You better watch out… Santa Claus is coming to town! On Christmas Eve in Finland, one of the greatest discoveries of mankind takes place: Santa Claus is unearthed in an archaeological dig. Only that Santa is not the good guy we have in mind… Horror, fantasy, adventure and a hint of Finnish black humor.

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7) LE TOUT NOUVEAU TESTAMENT (THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT), 2015

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christmas-films-the_brand_new_testament_posterTechnically speaking not a Christmas film, but it has something about it… It turns out that God exists, and lives Belgium! The problem is that he is bored and vicious, and his only pleasure is to ruin people’s lives. But his only daughter Ea decides to take the situation in her hands to save the world from her insane dad. Original script, great acting, this film was critically acclaimed and received many awards.

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8) SERENDIPITY, 2001

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christmas-films-serendipity-poster“Fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”: this is what Serendipity means and what the movie is about…  Jonathan meets Sara by chance at Christmas in New York, and since they feel a mutual attraction, they go together to the restaurant Serendipity 3. In there, Sara reveals her opinion that fate determines most decisions in life. Thus, she writes her telephone in a book that will be sold the following day, and Jonathan on a five dollars bill, stating that, if destiny wants them together, they will meet each other again. This is a light-hearted, delightful romantic comedy that makes you think about fate, soul mates and true love…

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9) BRAZIL, 1985

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christmas-films-brazil-posterAnother cinephile gem directed by one of the Monty Python troupe members, Terry Gilliam. In this dystopian science fiction film, a civil servant working in an Orwellian, bureaucratic state, tries to find a woman who appears in his dreams. But while trying to correct an administrative error, he becomes an enemy of the state; things get even more complicated when he seems to find someone who looks like his dream woman…The movie is visually stunning, extremely clever, mind-bending and thoroughly enjoyable.

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10) EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, 1990

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Unconventional love Edward scissorhands poster
If we think “unconventional filming”, director Tim Burton comes right away to our minds. The story of Edward  Scissorhands, a man who has scissors instead of hands, is one of the most beautiful and meaningful cinematic Christmas tales. Read more on this movie here.

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11) ANNIE HALL, 1977

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If you like Woody Allen, Christmas will be the excuse to watch (again) this fantastic film, which is for most fans -including myself- one of Woody Allen’s best movies, often listed among the greatest film comedies of all time. In this film, neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with ditzy, aspiring nightclub singer Annie Hall. Gender stereotypes, psychoanalysis and the Jewish identity are careful dissected with Allen’s unique, hilarious but at times dramatic style.

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12) LAST HOLIDAY, 2006

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christmas-films-last-holiday-posterGeorgia, a shy store assistant, is told that she has a terminal disease and only a few weeks to live. She decides to spend her last funds and sets off on a dream vacation at the deluxe Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic). Having nothing to lose, she lives her life to the full, which has unexpected consequences for her and the people she meets… Feel-good and enjoyable, the film delivers a simple but effective message: let’s enjoy our lives, as we don’t know what is just around the corner… Lovely Queen Latifah and always great Gerard Depardieu add their own charm to this romantic comedy.

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I hope you enjoy this list!

I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂

100 ESSENTIAL FRENCH SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 7: 2010-2016

 

best-french-songs-2010s-mod-2See also:

This fascinating trip through French music is over! We arrived to the present time!

It’s amazing to see how French music has changed throughout the years! Having the whole picture in front of my eyes while preparing this series of posts, it really got me thinking on how France’s music scene evolution is, unfortunately, a sign of the times.

From the 1930s till the 60s, France was the absolute trend-setter. French songs were heard worldwide, many times translated into other languages, including English. During the 70s, Anglo-saxons’s influence on France’s music style becomes slowly evident. We start witnessing the decay of la République Française as a music model; nevertheless, many great songs of this period have remained as all-time classics.

From the 80s, globalization becomes omnipresent, and music is not an exception: more and more English music is being heard in France; the 90s widespread availability of the Internet certainly magnifies this phenomenon. In order to preserve the French language and protect it against the “Anglo-Saxon cultural invasion”, the French government takes a decision: the controversial Toubon law is issued. Effective 1/1/1996, this law forces radio stations to broadcast at least 40% of songs in French. But there is a problem: French radio stations believe that, after 20 years of being applied, this 40% quota has become unsustainable. They denounce a lack of quality of contemporary French music, as well the reduction in the number of artists performing in French. As they point out: “Only 242 francophone albums were released in 2014, against 718 in 2003, representing a 66,3% drop in the production of French music in a little over ten years”.

Why this alarming drop-off in Francophone music? Are French artists lacking creativity? The answer is: not at all! They are performing in English!! With the boom in electro pop and house music, a trademark of the 2010s, mainstream artists such as David Guetta, Daft Punk, Bob Sinclar, as well  as other remarkable, less-known bands such as The Avener,  Synapson, Christine and the Queens, are now singing in English in order to attract a more international audience.

The future of French music doesn’t look bright: recently, as a result of the pressure exerted by the radio stations, the 40% French music quota was reduced to 35%. This is sad! French music should not disappear! This would be a huge loss, not only for France, but for the whole world…

But there is some hope: outstanding Francophone artists, either because of their commercial success, or due to the quality of their work, still insist on being “a cultural exception”. So, let’s all support French music!! Check out this list, go ahead and Frenchify your playlist!

91) Zaz – “Je veux” (2010)

With her gypsy jazzy style and her sultry voice,  Zaz  managed to have not only France, but all Europe singing the addictive “Je veux”. The album went diamond-certified in France, while the song “Je veux” stayed at the top of most European charts for several weeks. After this massive hit, she became the most listened French singer abroad and, according to an Internet survey in France, the favorite French musician in 2010. Read more about Zaz here.

 

 92) Mika – “Elle me dit” (2011)

Yes, it’s the same Mika of “Relax, take it easy“. Actually, Mika is British-Lebanese, but he has also lived in France. This song (English: “She tells me”) is, according to himself:  “about all the horrific things a mother can say to her son to get him to f..k out of her house”. The video features a well-known ensemble of French actors, including the great Fanny Ardant. It was the most commercially successful francophone hit of 2011 in France.

 

 93) Camille – Le banquet” (2011)

She may not be for everybody’s taste, but no one can deny she’s got a great talent -and an amazing voice. Quirky and original (though at times she may remind us of Bjork), Camille’s all four studio albums are definitely worth listening to. Almost unanimously acclaimed by the critics,  her single “Ta douleur” has been also a commercial success. She has collaborated with the band Nouvelle Vague, and composed songs for the soundrack of the films Ratatouille and Le petit princeThis song belongs to her last album Ilo veyou (anagram for “I love you”).

 

94) Maître Gims – “J’me tire” (2013)

Worshiped by some, snubbed by others, there is no doubt though that Maître Gims is a big thing in France. Already well-known as the leader of the notorious rap group Sexion d’Assault, in 2013 he went solo with the album “Subliminal”. Although the album got mixed reviews from critics, it was a huge commercial success, becoming double-diamond certified. In this song (English: “I withdraw myself”) he describes how he feels sick of fame sometimes, and that he would like to leave and go some place where people won’t judge him.

 

95) Stromae – “Papaoutai” (2013)

By 2010, when his first album was released, Belgian musician Stromae spread the word: “Life sucks, so let’s dance”. And he got all Europe on its feet, dancing his major hit Alors on dance. But with his 2013 album Racine Carrée, he clearly demonstrated what an accomplished artist he is. Besides the easy-listening, catchy melodies, all his songs deliver a strong social message, whether they talk about AIDS, cancer, relationships, or sexual clichés…The song Papaoutai (“Papa où t’ai/Papa where are you”) talks about absent fathers. It’s really worth watching the amazing music video, where a boy uses a mannequin to replace his absent father. Learn more about Stromae here.

 

96) Indila – “Dernière danse” (2014)

This song (English: “Last dance”) is the first single from Indila’s debut album, Mini World.  The beautiful music video is a short film that takes place in Paris, and describes the story of a young immigrant who is a victim of racism. Mini World would become diamond-certified in France; although the single Dernière danse never made it to the top of the chart (it reached the second place), it became a huge success in many other countries, such as Greece, Israel, Turkey, remaining several weeks at the top of the charts.

 

97) Louane – “Jour 1” (2015)

Louane Emera, or just Louane, was already well-known since 2013 for her participation in the talent show The Voice. However, she becomes a national star in 2014 with her role in the film La famille Bélier, for which she won a César Award for the Most Promising Actress. This song belongs to her first album, Room 12, which became the biggest selling album of the year 2015 in France (two-times diamond-certified).

 

98) Julien Doré – “Le lac” (2016)

Another star arising from a talent show, Julien Doré was the winner of Nouvelle Star in 2007. Since then, he has had a very successful career; his three previous studio albums have all reached the top four on the official French Albums Chart. Just now (October 2016) he released his fourth album, “&”, from which the single “Le lac” (The lake) became instantly the most downloaded single in the charts.

 

99) Céline Dion – “Encore un soir” (2016)

There is actually not much need for introduction: Céline Dion is, without any doubt, a true star. Although already known from the early 80s in her homeland Canada, further recognition came when Dion represented Switzerland in the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, winning with the song “Ne partez pas sans moi. Singing with great success both in French and English, by the mid-1990s she became one of the best-selling artists in the world, particularly after the super massive hit “My heart will go on”. After a 4-year break, she’s back! And with a great French album: “Encore un soir”(One More Night) has garnered positive reviews from music critics and topped the charts in France (where it went 4 times platinum), Quebec, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium.

 

100) Christophe Maé – “Il est où le bonheur” (2016)

Christophe Maé is considered a real phenomenon:  since the release of his first album in 2007, all his albums have topped the French charts. And his fifth album, L’Attrape-rêves, which just came out is no exception! In the video of this song (the title means “Where is happiness?”) the 40 year-old singer travels through time, becoming younger or older thanks to very successful visual effects. With his unique voice, he reminds us that we should not run after happiness because it is right in front of us, although but we do not always see it.

 

Don’t miss:

YouTube playlist here

 

100 ESSENTIAL FRENCH SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 6: The 2000s


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During the 2000s, France witnesses the revival of the chanson Française with the establishment of a generation of popular artists collectively called “New French scene” or “New chanson”; this trend had already began, timidly, during the 90s. In a decade where talent shows deliver rising -and falling- stars, this new generation focuses mostly on the engaged content of their lyrics, rather than performance, while they introduce the fusion with other musical influences, such as of pop, jazz and electronica.

Nevertheless, alongside with this strong new wave, genres such as pop, rock, dance and hip hop are omnipresent in the French musical stage of the 00s.

These are 10 emblematic songs of that decade:

81) Philippe d’Avilla, Damien Sargue & Grégori Baquet – “Les Rois du monde” (2000)

This song (French for “The kings of the world”) was written for the world-wide successful musical Roméo et Juliette. In France, the single was a massive hit, topping the charts for many months and becoming one of the top selling singles of the 2000s.

 

 82) Alizée – “Moi… Lolita” (2000)

Alizée, who became famous after her participation in a talent show, recorded “Moi…Lolita” when she was 15; the lyrics were written by Mylène Farmer. The song, which makes allusion to Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita character, achieved a huge success not only in France, but also abroad.

 

 83) Yannick – “Ces soirées-là” (2000)

Falling in the category “One hit wonder”, French rapper Yannick recorded this song (English: “Those nights”) which contains a sample of The Four Seasons’ “Oh what a night”. It was a tremendous success in France, becoming the third top-selling hit of the decade and one of the best selling hits of all time.

 

 84) Noir Désir – “Le vent nous portera” (2001)

Noir Désir is one of France’s most representative alternative rock bands. This beautiful song (English: “The wind will carry us”) is the band’s most successful piece, which was recorded in collaboration with French artist Manu Chao.

 

85) Indochine – “J’ai demandé à la lune” (2002)

Although formed in 1981 and critically acclaimed since them, this pop/rock/new wave band found its way to stardom with the release of their album Paradize in 2002. This song (“I asked the moon” in English), quickly became a national success, selling over a million units. Many interpretations have been given to its lyrics, which remain quite dark and mysterious.

 

86) Carla Bruni – “Quelqu’un m’a dit” (2002)

I have little doubt that you heard about Carla Bruni as the former First Lady of France. But many people don’t know she’s also a singer, and actually a good one! Quelqu’un m’a dit (“Someone told me”) was her debut album, which quickly reached number one on the French Album Chart, spending 34 weeks in the Top ten. This melancholic song, from which the album draws its name, speaks of the sadness of life: “They tell me that our lives are not worth very much, / They pass in an instant as roses wilt…”. It was included on the soundtrack of the wonderful film (500) Days of Summer.

 

87) Calogero & Passi – “Face à la mer” (2004)

This song (French: “Facing the Sea”) was recorded by Calogero together with rapper Passi. It achieved success in the countries in which it was released, becoming to date his most successful single on the charts. Another great song by Calogero is “Si seulement je pouvais lui manquer”.

 

88) Zazie – “Je suis un homme” (2007)

“Je suis un homme” (“I am a man”) is Zazie’s most successful solo single, being a top ten hit in France and Belgium. The insightful lyrics critizise human behavior regarding environmental issues and consumerism. Don’t miss the video: it’s artistic, stylish and thought-provoking.

 

89) Cœur de pirate – “Comme des enfants” (2008)

Canadian singer Cœur de pirate is credited with “bringing la chanson française to a whole new generation of Quebec youth”. This song (the title means “Like children”) from her first studio album Cœur de pirate won many awards, both in France and Canada. In 2014, an instrumental version of the song was used in an advertisement for Disneyland Paris.

 

90) Benjamin Biolay – “La Superbe” (2009)

Benjamin Biolay is regarded as one of the most gifted artists of his generation. With his double album “La Superbe” he managed to impress not only critics, but also the general public: it became a huge commercial success and won many awards. The album contains many great songs; I chose the eponymous La Superbe.

 

Don’t miss:

YouTube playlist here

 

100 ESSENTIAL FRENCH SONGS YOU MUST HEAR Part 5: The 1990s

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The French musical landscape of the 90s sees the established musicians of the 70s and 80s still holding a prominent place. But alongside then, a new musical movement develops: the so-called “Nouvelle chanson”, that is, a return to the melodies and poetry of artists such as Brel, Brassens… This new French song’s artists find a wide audience and bring the chanson française back to its best.

The revival of French music of the 90s is also based on the emergence of a new rock scene. New bands, with influences both French and Anglo-Saxon, fill concert halls and appear at the top of the charts.

The influence of american hip-hop is also evident in France: French hip hop slowly becomes mainstream, so does electronic, dance and house music.

These are some of the most representative songs of the 90s:

69) Niagara – “Pendant Que Les Champs Brûlent” (1990)

French duo Niagara achieved popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, placing several singles in the Top 50 chart; their four studio albums have been gold certified. Evolving from a new wave and synthpop style on their earlier albums to a more rock-oriented style on their later ones, they have been frequently compared to the UK duo Eurythmics. This beautiful song (the title means “While the fields burn”) belongs to their third album, Religion.

 

 70) Mylène Farmer – “Désenchantée” (1991)

Arguably Europe’s greatest modern pop star, holding a series of impressive records (French artist who sold most records since 1984, record of diamond-certified albums, artist with more singles in the Top 50, among others), Mylène Farmer is the absolute French diva.

Controversial, enigmatic, rarely appearing in the media, refusing to talk about her private life, she is well known for her meaningful songs (often with double entendre, with artistic or literary references) and her spectacular concerts. This is one of her signature songs (the title means “Disappointed”), which she declared had to do with her own feelings at that time, although many  find the song refers to the political situation of France in the 90s.

 

 71) William Sheller – “Un homme heureux” (1991)

“A happy man” was performed by William Sheller in front of a live audience. The song found success as a single, charting for sixteen weeks on the Top 50 in France and winning the Song of the Year award at the 1992 Victoires de la Musique.

 

72) Mc Solaar – “Bouge de là” (1991)

Mc Solaar is one of France’s most internationally popular and influential hip hop artists, known for his complex lyrics, which rely on word play, lyricism, and inquiry. The song title means “Get out of here”,  and was one of the first hip hop hits in France. Other famous songs of Mc Solaar are Hasta la vista and La belle et le bad boy, which featured in the last  episode of the series Sex and the city.

 

73) IAM – “Je danse le Mia” (1993)

Je Danse le Mia was recorded by Marseille rap group IAM. It evokes Marseille nightlife during the 80s; the lyrics are ironic and full of clichés. The song became a major hit in France, and it’s considered the band’s signature song. It uses a sample from “Give me the night” by George Benson.

 

74) Les Négresses Vertes  – “Face à la mer” (Massive Attack Remix) (1993)

Les Négresses Vertes is one of the most representative bands of French alternative rock. Their style was quite unique though, as they incorporated elements of world and electronic music in their songs. Energetic and exotic, their work was widely acclaimed by critics and the general public. Their recognition and commercial success led to several international collaborations; this is a remix of their song Face à la mer by Massive Attack.

 

75) Alain Souchon – “Foule sentimentale” (1993)

Multi-awarded Alain Souchon denounces in this powerful song (the title means “Sentimental flock”) the emptiness of our consumer society: “we are inflicted desires that afflict us” and “they make us believe / that happiness is having / our cabinets full of things…”

This song is undoubtedly his greatest success, which received a Victoires de la musique award for the song of the year 1994, and a “Victoires des Victoires” award for the best original song of the last twenty years in 2005.

 

76) Lara Fabian – “Je suis malade” (1994)

Belgian-Canadian singer, Lara Fabian is the best-selling Belgian female artist of all time, but also well-known internationally. This beautifully sad, timeless song (the title means “I am sick”) belongs to Serge Lama, and had also been performed by Dalida, but this version by Lara Fabian is just marvellous.

 

77) Pascal Obispo – “Lucie” (1996)

Pascal Obispo has been one of French music central figures since the early 90s, being well-known not only for his talent, but also for his continuous charity work and his unconventional personality. In this song he addresses subjects such as childhood, time passing, life and tells us that we must strive to live from day to day, without asking too many questions.

 

78) Khaled – “Aïcha” (1996)

This song was written by Jean-Jacques Goldman, but he never released it, being originally performed by Algerian, France-based, raï artist Khaled. The title refers to an Arabic female name. In the song she is being wooed by a man, who promises her luxury, but she wants “anything but love”. It was a huge success, becoming one of France’s best selling singles of the decade.

 

79) Patrick Fiori, Daniel Lavoie & Garou – “Belle” (1997)

This song belongs to the musical Notre Dame de Paris. It was a massive hit in France, becoming the best-selling single of the decade (managing to surpass even the super hit worldwide “Candle in the wind”), and the third  best-selling single of all time.

 

80) Larusso – “Tu m’oublieras” (1998)

The song title means “You will forget me”, and indeed many people may have forgotten Larusso. At that time though, it was a huge success, reaching the top ten best selling singles of the 90s. So uplifting, still nowadays!

 

Don’t miss:

YouTube playlist here