American music and popular culture is eveywhere.
This evening Danièle and I attended a concert, right here in Talence, of stride piano (think Harlem in the 20s and 30s and Fats Waller) played by Louis Mazetier. He was accompanied by Paris Washboard. Dr. Mazetier was voted world's best stride pianist last year. I've never seen four guys in two-piece business suits and ties give off so much energy and good vibes!
How was such a concert possible in a smallish town like ours? The fact that the washboard player/percussionist is from Talence must have played a part. But the fact that the French pay higher taxes comes back to them in various ways, including very good cultural events. The town has an assistant mayer and staff devoted to leisure and cultural activities for us Talencais. Right now, we're in the midst of a three-day music festival, where most events are free, though a few, like tonight, have paid admission. We first learned about the concert in the magazine published several times a year by Talence and mailed free to the inhabitants of Talence. Then, posters reminding us of the music festival went up all over town. All paid for out of our taxes. (Note the magazine is in French, the posters are in French, and all the introductions and explanations of stride of stride piano jazz were in French. You move to France, you're gonna need to learn French to settle in and really enjoy being here. )
The concert got me to thinking about the abiding love the French have for most things American, particularly music and popular culture. Rather than talkabout TV serials (Bay Watch and Dr. House), movies (Titanic and Lethal Weapon), and music on the radio (sometime back France adopted a regulation requiring radio stations to play French-produced music at least 50% of the time), or fast-food (McDonald's France is the most profitable country in Europe), let me just mention a few events in this part of France.
South of here, next to Biarritz, is the annual Marciac Jazz Festival. Wynton Marcellus regularly attends and plays there. Further east in the Gers is the Fesival de Country Music de Mirande. Quoting from an article in the New York Times: "... [It] has grown into an annual event that now attracts more than 160,000 people, 40 times the population of Mirande ... For six days every July, Mirande, about 60 miles from Toulouse, plays host to a bizarre but happy parade of cowboys, bikers and an impressive number of French fans of John Wayne." Here in the Gironde, I can think of country music festivals, jazz concerts (jazz of all sorts), rap concerts, biker rallies, poetry slams (in French), and the Cadillac automobile festival in Cadillac I mentioned earlier. Several years ago Danièle and I attended a production of Porgy and Bess in English. Holiday on Ice was in Bordeaux earlier this year.
Maybe we're not so far from home after all!