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FranceinLondon Meets French Blues Star Tété

By Matthieu Boisseau

Should French poetry and soul have a king he would, without a doubt, go by the name of Tété.
Each of the artist's songs is a sort of ballad, a heady promenade in Tété's marvellous universe. After discovering the delightful melancholy in A la faveur de l'automne, the ethereal voice and inimitable style in le Sacre des Lemmings, here comes Le Premier Clair de l'Aube : a swinging album praised for its metaphorical lyrics and its loyalty to Tété's sacrosanct triptych : blues, soul and folk.
As the Dakar-born singer is performing in London at the French Institute on 23rd March, Franceinlondon thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get better acquainted with this most talented of French artists. With his legendary serenity and availability, the singer evoked his latest album Le Premier Clair de l'Aube, his composition methods, his feelings about music and arts, and his upcoming gig at the French Institute on 23rd March 2011.

Interview :


Franceinlondon : After the release of your latest album 'Le premier quart de lune' last year, you are now touring all over the world. Do you still compose while touring ?

Tété : After Le Sacre des Lemmings, released in 2005, I have been promoting it in every part of the world for the past two and a half years : France of course but also Japan, USA, England, Australia. However, I love composing while touring because all the musicians around me give me inspiration. Anyway touring is part of the job.

The quality of your lyrics is really your trademark. Can you explain your composition methods.

Basically I just seize remarkable moments which arouse a particular emotion or feeling in me. I also read a lot and get a good deal of my inspiration from books- particularly from my favourite poet Patrick Chamoisneau.


Tété : L'envie et le dédain (2010)



You often say you admire Serge Gainsbourg (who died 20 years ago). Gainsbourg was split between his genius and his alter-ego Gainsbarre: do you also have a dark side?

I think that this is what I implicitly express throughout my songs : I mean melancholy. I guess it has a key role in the blues atmosphere of the album. In Le Premier Clair de l'Aube, I wanted to expose myself without using many effects. I tried to make it be less made-up, more natural.

In this album, the rhythm is really up and down, with some lively folk  songs as well as very quiet interludes.

The latest album is definitely lively, with a lot of soul and energy. I love interludes as they enable me – and the public – to catch our breath and to start all over again. I've been using them since A la faveur de l'automne, and I will definitely continue.

TV Programs, touring, your website and this new album : you are very busy, aren't you ?

Well, to be honest, I have always wanted to be a musician. As a matter of fact, I have made my dream come true. However, I often quote Gainsbourg who said that music is a minor art. Maybe it's not sufficient, this is why I have had my own website for 7 years with plenty of music videos, new songs, and all the information about my tour. I  also present a road documentary on French TV channel France 5 with the pianist André Manoukian. We visit the main places in the history of music, like the USA (New York, San Francisco, New Orleans), Cuba, and also Senegal and South Africa. It is really fun and exciting to do interviews, meet new people, discover cultures and talk with talented musicians.

When will you write your own book ?

Well, it requires a lot of work, and I do not have time to do that at the moment. But maybe one day...

Is there a special feeling when you perform in London ?

I love London as I perform here 3 or 4 times a year. I appreciate the diversity. And I recorded A la faveur de l'automne at the Olympic Studios , so I have good memories from here. On top of that, some of my close relatives are English-speaken, which probably contributed to my passion for London. So I am really pleased to perform at the French Institute with Arnaud Fleurent-Didier.


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