The BBC News website asks can we learn to love French pop music? The answer is probably, yes we can… but we won’t.Â By ‘we’ I mean the British public generally – I already have quite a fondness for French music.
The reason for the story is the launch today of French Radio London (FRL), a French-language DAB radio station based in London.Â I think that the fact it is a French language channel makes the BBC’s question a bit pointless.Â I reckon that there are a lot of people who might like certain French artists if they heard them but who would have a problem with the French DJs inbetween.But despite the BBC’s angle on things FRL don’t seem to be trying to convert Anglos to the pleasures of chanson.Â The ‘about’ section on their website starts by highlighting the 400,000 French ex-pats and other native French speakers living in London.Â Â The station is leaning a bit towards ignoring the UK outside London in the same way and Parisians largely ignore life outside Paris.Â In fact the station feels a bit like one aimed at Parisians living in London rather than Frenchmen living in the UK.
Fair enough.Â I’m sure it is a market segment big enough to be worth aiming at.Â If I was living in Paris I might appreciate having an English language radio station to listen to, but would prefer it to be based locally.
For those of us outside London, it is possible to listen to the station live via its website, which is handy.Â I doubt it will reach anybody who does not already enjoy French music to one extent or another, but for those of us who do it could be a good way to discover what is what so we know what to pick up in the Virgin Champs Elysee Megastore during visits.
Or we would do if they published their playlists online…Â Â Â The song they are playing now is quite pleasant but I know I won’t understand a word the DJ says when he back-announces it.
I know from experience that the French ex-pat population in London is pretty huge.Â I have seen several French bands play in London, and each time the venues were packed out.Â When I saw Niagara play at the old Marquee it felt like I was about the only Brit there and concerts by Mano Negra, Les Negresses Vertes and Manu Chao were all selling out larger venues with a fairly minimal British following.
Anyway, I look forward to learning about a few new artists if I can catch their names.Â Back in the 90s I think one of the local London stations did the French charts on a Sunday night, with a British (or at least English-speaking) DJ playing the top 30 each week.Â It didn’t last very long – but long enough for me to find out about Elmer Food Beat’s ‘Je vais dormir…’ album so I could look out for it on my next trip.Â Something like that would be handy – but I suspect the market for that would be quite small.
EDIT: before everyone jumps in and calls me a fool… just realised my mistake in the Elmer Food Beat album. It is of course ‘Je vais encore dormir…’Â Â Ever since typing it I have been unable to get the tune of the title track out of my head.