Need some new sounds for the New Year? Then I suggest Zaz.
Zaz (though her mother named her Isabelle) is a thirty-one year old jazz singer out of Paris, who combines jazz stylings with classic French chanson and her own Gypsy flair. Chanson is an old (think medieval times and courtly love) French style of epic poem, first performed by travelling minstrels. The song style grew in popularity in the 1400’s and developed into a form of choral music sung by a group. Modern chanson branched off into chanson realiste (or realist song) around the turn of the last century and through World War II—think cabarets and expatriate times in Ol’ Gay Paris. (And I don’t mean that in a sexually-oriented kind of way). Chansonbecame popular throughout the twentieth century by artists such as Charles Aznavour (known as France’s Frank Sinatra), Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf. It distinguishes itself by following the rhythms of the French language (how romantic is that?) rather than copying American pop music.
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Our current favorite (read: played ad naseum every time we get in the car— my preschooler is nothing if not intensely obsessive) is Zaz’s live album entitled Sans Tsu Tsou, but you also could go with her self-titled album from 2010. Both albums contain many of the same songs, as she’s pretty new to the recorded music scene, but the live album gives you a bit more raw energy and fun little French asides. I don’t really know what she’s saying, but it sure sounds cute.
Zaz’s music is both wonderfully catchy and not over-produced, unlike so many American chanteuses, and her throaty warble has a wonderful range without sounding too ‘trained.’ I’ve always been a big fan a jazz music and jazz singers including Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, but Zaz gives typical torch songs a youthful vigor. It’s a favorite of my preschooler, and I’m more than happy to let her expand her musical borders outside of the US. And while I haven’t been the type of parent to buy every Brainy Baby product or try to make my child fluent in 3 languages before she starts kindergarten, I can’t help but hope maybe she’s picking up some French that she will use later to help her dear mother navigate the Bohemian streets of Paris… but no pressure, kid.
So if you want to think worldly and a little bit unusual for Valentine’s Day, create a mood around the house. Throw on some Zaz and put on your fullest gypsy skirt. Wrap your hair up in a scarf and pair it with your longest earrings. And if you want to make a date night in (perhaps gypsies can’t afford babysitters) rent the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose, which won Marion Cotillard the Oscar for Best Actress in 2007. Curl up next to your fellow in a darkened room and whisper ‘je t’aime’ into his ear. Vive l’amore!
Le Tour Eiffiel ‘Paris’ picture by Antoine Henrich