Celebrating Darkness in the City of Light

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François Parisi and Cybèle Castoriadis

François Parisi and Cybèle Castoriadis
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

The annual Fête de la Musique was held in Paris yesterday, with musicians and singers appearing on street corners and in bars, pubs, and restaurants throughout the city to celebrate the beginning of summer.

For my part, I chose to attend a unique concert at the Bibliothèque des Litteratures Policières, where I heard Cybèle Castoriadis sing not happy, joyous songs that the official arrival of summer would occasion, but brooding, sinister songs about the darker side of life in Paris. Indeed, apart from the Paris Police Museum that stands only a few blocks away, there would be no better place to perform these songs but at the Bibliothèque des Litteratures Policières, a city library dedicated to the crime-thriller literary genre.

For over an hour, Cybèle, accompanied by accordionist François Parisi, regaled the audience with such French chansons as “Le Boucher de la Rue de Flandres,” about a butcher who turned to murder and deboned his victims; “La Vipère du Trottoir,” about a woman who willingly submitted to prostitution and betrayed her pimp, who, in turn, murdered her; “Le Chat Qui Miaule,” about a burglar whose victim is awakened by the meow of a cat and, consequently, gets strangled by the intruder. There were eighteen songs in all, and the topics seemed to get more shocking as the concert progressed. It was enough to send chills down one’s spine! Which is the point, of course, and is exactly what people seek when they pick up a crime thriller…or attend a cabaret to hear these songs performed.

I had a chance to speak briefly with the accordionist. He told me that he recorded two melodies for the soundtrack of the movie Midnight in Paris. Later, I searched his name on the Internet and found their names: “Ballad du Paris” and “Le Parc de Plaisir.” To hear a sample of his music, go to the landing page of his Web site. The melody “Annie-Zette” that plays immediately is a wonderful example of Paris musette at its best!

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