Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fan Club - Dorothée

The Saunders family was introduced to Dorothée back in the early 1990s by friends of ours who had slightly older children and who spent most of their family holidays in France. They made some tapes for us, and from then on Dorothée became part of the soundtrack of our lives, especially car journeys.

SO - who is Dorothée? Biographical details are here, but she is (or was) a French singer with a very popular children's TV programme and also, it would seem, one aimed more at grown-ups. She sang traditional French songs, specially written material, and also cover versions of rock classics, especially when duetting with guests such as Chuck Berry. The original material is extraordinary, by which I mean you couldn't imagine a Britsih equivalent, at least not in the 1980s and 1990s. The songs are squarely aimed at a kids' audience (mostly) in terms of lyrics, but musically they're the kind of throwback to the 50s and 60s that the French seem so fond of. Sort of Europop-cum-The Singing Kettle. For anyone who enjoys French pop, they're very appealing. Par example:

Vive les Vacances

Allo Allo Monsieur l'Ordinateur (probably her biggest hit)

Qu'il est Bête!

Toutes les guitares du rock n roll

À l'École

A good example of the Dorothée kids+retro mixture is her suitcase songs. Each of her albums (as far as I have been able to determine) contains a song about the contents of her suitcase, beginning with La Valise. This is far from being the best of them: subsequent songs, while keeping to the same easily-recognised formula regarding the valise's contents (and never forgetting those chaussettes rouges et jaunes à petits pois) tells a different story but more importantly is in a different musical style. We've had a country one, a techno one, a heavy metal one... you could fill Heathrow T5 with them. Our friends were thoughtful enough to collect all the ones available at the time onto one of the tapes they made for us.

One thing that struck me early on was how clear her enunciation is: subtitles are almost unnecessary, except where the vocabulary is exotic. I mean to say, when I did French at school we were told that the phrase "un bon vin blanc" should have four distinct nasal vowel sounds in it. We were also told (correctly) that many actual French speakers, and especially Parisians, manage to make them all sound pretty similar. Well, I can announce that Parisienne Dorothée's nasal vowels couldn't be more distinct if Henry Higgins himself had been training her.

Here's a clip from her show perhaps aimed more at the adult audience:

Si j'ai menti

And here's another. I hadn't heard of Karen Cheryl before, though I've added a clip below * of one of her solo numbers from a Dorothée show. I had, though, heard of Jane Birkin, and I guess you have too. Anyway, here are the three ladies together strutting their secretarial stuff on the Dorothée show:

Le trio de Secretaires

Put that in your valise and close it.

(*As promised: Karen Cheryl: Pense a moi quand-meme (on Dorothee Show))


At 14 April, 2008 16:19, Anonymous JoeInVegas said...

Haven't heard of her - sure is a perky show. American's don't see much more than tv shows made over here and local music. Does your TV system broadcast shows in different languages from different countries? Is it standard for kids to learn assorted languages? Here it used to be required to take a few years of a foreign language (usually only French, German or Spanish offered) in high school, but that has been dropped for a while, so most US students have no knowledge of anything other than English).

At 14 April, 2008 18:36, Blogger Rob said...

We get some foreign language news channels on cable but that's about it. In the UK kids all do one foreign language in secondary school for four or five years, usually French though in fact my daughter was offered German. Quite a few do a second language as well for a slightly shorter period (I could have done German but did Latin in fact), quite apart from the ones who go on to more advanced study. The most common languages in school are French, German, Spanish and Russian (though not too many places offer that).

We heard of Dorothee because of our friends who as I said, spent serious amounts of time in France with small(ish) kids. I guess they either saw her on TV there or maybe just heard of her via her many CDs.

We liked her because there really isn't an English-language equivalent of that kind of stuff. The Singing Kettle, who I mentioned, are a Scottish group doing very high-quality musical children's stuff and probably come closet in terms of energy and wit, but more folk than rock influenced. Also targeted at a slightly younger age-group than Dorothee's young teen and just pre-teen demographic.


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