Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Josephine Baker in the Panthéon, as the Hobosapiens Release “Bad Bones” Josephine Baker Song and Vidéo!

August 22, 2021
bradspurgeon

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker

CASTELLAMMARE DEL GOLFO, Sicily – How is that for amazing timing? A friend whom I met during my open mic musical travels just posted an exceptional new song and video, so exceptional that I told him I wanted to spread the news…but after five days sitting on it, I was still not sure how I could do that. What would be the context to talk about his amazing song and the fabulous video he did using footage of Josephine Baker dancing in Paris in 1927? And then, wow, today I suddenly saw the news in France that Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has agreed to enshrine Josephine Baker in the Panthéon in Paris! The first time a black woman has been given such an exceptional honor in France. And how incredibly appropriate that my friend’s song about Baker – whose bones will now rest in the Panthéon – is called: “Bad Bones.”

“Bad Bones” video by Pete and the Hobosapiens, with footage of Josephine Baker in 1927.

I have spoken about my friend Pete Cogavin in the past, and about his band, The Hobosapiens. But this time I am completely blown away by the video, and I cannot believe the timing. Baker was an American star in the roaring twenties Paris, and not only amongst the artistic expats of the time like Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, et al. She was hugely popular in France, and that right through her life, until her death in Paris in 1975. She was a human rights activist, a women’s rights activist, a civil rights activist – she was from St Louis, Missouri – and had also worked in the French resistance during World War II. She was also known for having adopted 12 children, and one of them – Brian Bouillon-Baker – was involved in making this request to Macron.

In fact, the request to place her in the Panthéon – among the bones of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Jaurès, Jean Moulin, Jean Monnet, Pierre et Marie Curie, André Malraux and Alexandre Dumas and others – was also made by the novelist Pascal Bruckner, the singer Laurent Voulzy, the entrepreneur Jennifer Guesdon, the essay writer Laurent Kupferman. Macron apparently gave his go-ahead on 21 July, but the story has just come out in in the French media overnight.

Above all, or rather, to start with, Josephine Baker was an exceptional performer, famous for her dancing costume of a belt of bananas. As you will see in the video above. (Even if the bananas are not featured in this particular video.)

And while I am at it talking about Pete Cogavin and the Hobosapiens, and while we are also on this French theme in Pete’s music – he is an Irishman who I met while he was living in Nice – I want to draw your attention also to this beautiful rendition he also just did – solo, chez lui – of the famous song by Piaf: La Vie en Rose. He starts off in English, then moves into excellent French! Chapeau Pete!

Peter Cogavin singing La Vie en Rose

A previous request to place Josephine Baker in the Panthéon had been made in 2013 to François Hollande, then president, and he rejected it. Simone Veil, another great woman activist, was accepted amongst the mostly men in the Panthéon three years ago.

Kupferman said this decision regarding Baker was just what was needed in today’s political environment in a statement I translate from French: “It’s a very strong message for universality. Joséphine Baker incarnates that which we all need right now, which is to say, to get together as one. She is the proof that in the French republic, anything is possible. That an equality of opportunities exists. And that next to our rights, we also have obligations.”

A Bit of Spoken Word from Paris Lit Up to the Osmoz Café near Montparnasse

January 11, 2018
bradspurgeon

Osmoz Café

Osmoz Café

PARIS – I sense a new movement on this blog toward a few uncharted territories in the way of Paris’s spoken word open mics…but also pushing the limits at the music open mics too. Is that a sentence? I mean the grammatical thing I just wrote, not sentence in terms of what lies before me. Anyway, to cut a long introduction short: Over the last week I have twice performed in a small excerpt of the monologue that Ornella Bonventre and I performed in Milan last month, and written about on this blog. But here, we have done it in Paris, first at the Paris Lit Up open mic of spoken word at the Cabaret Culture Rapide, and then at Sheldon Forrest’s open mic at the Osmoz Café, near Montparnasse.


Paris Lit Up presentation
Our first step was to translate a portion of the show from Italian to English. Then we rehearsed, Ornella – of TAC Teatro Italy and TAC Théâtre France) acting the role of the unfortunate woman of the piece, and me on the guitar providing soundtrack and a couple of acting moments. Then we went to the Paris Lit Up spoken word event and performed it for the first time, just an eight-minute segment of the hour-long show. Then we continued to work on the translation and to rehearse. Then we performed last night at the Osmoz. The plan is to continue like this, finding new open stages that cater to spoken word, but also finding the music open mics that “allow” spoken word, poetry, etc. A fabulous adventure.
Paris Lit Up reading

While I have attended and written before about the Paris Lit Up evening – which has not changed, by the way, and remains an excellent evening – I had never attended Sheldon’s open mic at the Osmoz bar, near Montparnasse. But when I prepared to go, I was pretty sure it would be like Sheldon’s fabulous long-standing

Osmoz open mic

Osmoz open mic

open mic at the Swan Bar (now closed down), and I was right. But actually, it was even better in the sense that the atmosphere at the Osmoz Café open mic feels much freer, anything-goes, compared to the often slightly uptight feeling that the Swan Bar could give….


Another Paris Lit Up Reading
It was his usual deal of Sheldon playing piano, and singers taking the mic to sing their favorite pop standards. Sheldon was joined by a violin player as well, by the way. And at the end of the evening, long after Ornella and I had done our act, Sheldon invited me up to play some songs with my guitar, if I wanted to. Naturally, I wanted! It was a great way to close the evening for me, and especially since I had not been playing music in front of an audience in that way for a while….
Singer at Osmoz Café open mic

Stay tuned for the further adventures in Spoken-Word-Land….

And a Trio of Performers at the Abracadabar

December 5, 2014
bradspurgeon

abracadabar

abracadabar

PARIS – On my exploration through time past, I have now arrived at last Thursday and an evening at the Abracadabar, with a trio of musicians performing a trio of sets in a single evening’s singer-songwriter concert format.

It was something of a perfect trio, in fact, with Ventru starting the evening with his probing style of lyrics and guitar, followed by Raphaëlle Pessoa with her eclectic, emotional and multilingual songs, to Shelita Burke, with her impressionistic vocal acrobatics.

The Abracadabar, is a mainstay of Paris singer-songwriters, being located near the Quais de Seine, in the Crimée area of Paris, and with an excellent sound system, soundman and comfortable stage, all separated from the main barroom by part of a wall and curtains (when needed).

I’ve attended concerts and the open mic they sometimes hold at this great little place off the beaten track, but the trio last week was one of the warmest times I’ve had so far.

And finally, as I stepped forward in time in my previous post, I want to just note in this one that the music-hall show that I mentioned in the previous post and put on by Raphaëlle Pessoa in her alter-ego, “Stella,” not only took place last night without a hitch and in triumph at the So Gymnase, but it also got a great review in a great French cultural web site called, Toute la Culture. The reviewer summed up the show and Raphaëlle’s talents perfectly, in a great story under a headline that perfectly sums up the show in a phrase: in “Stella dans tous ses éclats,” Raphaëlle Pessoa brings music-hall to the employment office!

Playing Acoustic at the 46 Pigalle and other Tales and Announcements

December 3, 2014
bradspurgeon

46 PigallePARIS – O.K., so where was I in my backwards step through time? Yes, yes, on Saturday, I attended a DJ night and open mic run momentarily by the inimitable Calvin Dionnet at a very cool microscopic bar of the kind I love, on the rue Pigalle.

This was the very new hole-in-the-wall bar called 46 Pigalle, located just down the street from the famous Place of the same name. Calvin, whom I have known for years – first meeting at Earle’s open mic at the Truskel in Paris – had a DJ night going at this very cool bar, and said that the first hour would be devoted to an open mic. Acoustic. No amp. Truth is, I don’t like playing without an amp most of the time. But at the 46 there was no problem at all, and I had no risk of being 86d.

In fact, it was a snug, fun, neat time playing for a crowd of expatriates passing through, and in a very intimate setting. The bar is really worth checking out, so keep an eye on the link I posted above, and especially if there happens to be another little impromptu open mic….

From there I went on to a crazy raucous evening at the Baroc – where I have frequently written about the Tuesday night open mic – where the musician who calls himself “SheMe” was celebrating one of his many birthdays…. It was crazy mad, with lots of music throughout the evening, and a kind of vibe that only the Baroc can drum up – something phantasmagoric in the barfly style.

Let’s Break the Rules and Make an Announcement or Two

As it turns out, right in the middle of trying to back pace myself in time and talk about my life over the last couple of “missing” weeks on this blog, I have decided to throw a spanner into the works and write about two events tomorrow that I am greatly looking forward to attending. One of them I will not attend, since I will attend the other – but since the first is just the first of many, I’ll attend in future….

So the first has to do with a meeting of a group of optimists on the Ile St. Louis in the center of Paris. I’ll be writing more about the location of this meeting in future, as it is a new cultural, event, optimist center on this great island in the middle of Paris, and I’m looking forward to returning. The point is, if you’re around tomorrow and want to check it out, I’m sure you will leave feeling more optimistic about life: It is a gathering of a group put together by Marie Deschamps, a leader among optimists. And it promises much more than just talk, if you can read French and see the invitation.

Stella dans tous ses éclats

Stella dans tous ses éclats

But I myself will be attending – and helping to put on – the brilliant show written, produced and performed by Raphaëlle Pessoa, whom I have no problem saying at once is one of the most brilliant young talents I know of in France at the moment. Raphaëlle’s show, “Stella dans tous ses eclats,” is a brilliantly written one-woman-show comprising dialogue, song and fun. She sings in English, French and Spanish, songs of her own composing as well as classic cabaret pieces like “Mein Herr,” or French popular songs by Dalida and others. In general, I’m no big fan of cabaret, but this is brilliant. It’s taking place at the So Gymnase Comedy Club, but it is not comedy, more every emotion possible….

Powered by WordPress.com.