Archive for May, 2007

A meeting – Grand Corps Malade (1)
31 May, 2007

I heard about Grand Corps Malade about six months ago.  I asked this French girl I knew if she could recommend any French hip-hop acts and she said, “No, I don’t like hip-hop, but you should check out this guy, great lyrics.”  Well, I only got hold of his album a couple of weeks ago and loved it from the first play.  It’s not hip-hop but slam, spoken word poetry with some melodic musical backing.  Supposedly ‘slam’ started in Chicago in the 1980s, with some guy who was bored at poetry reading sessions, and it seems to have blossomed in France.  Grand Corps Malade is the first mainstream hit from the slam circuit with his album Midi 20, that’s sold in the hundreds of thousands.  I’ll try to translate some of his stuff on this blog in the next couple of posts. 

 Just to start out, he’s got a song called ‘Rencontres’, ‘Meetings’ or ‘Encounters’ where he describes walking down a windy path a bit like life and meeting some bizzare characters: innocence, sport, poetry, distress, love, tenderness, nostalgia, friendship, and finally the future.  As he describes each one the authenticity of his experience shines out.  This is the the song performed live on a French TV show:

This is my translation of Grand Corps Malade’s meeting with poetry (1:05 – 1:26 on the video):

Then I met Poetry, she looked so pretentious,
She claimed that with words you could cut across the skies.
I told her, ‘I’ve already come across you and frankly you’re not worth it,
They told me about you in school and you seemed pretty sh*t’.
But Poetry insisted, and caught back up with me in other forms
I understood that she was cool and that you could break her norms
I asked her, ‘Do you think we can live together? I feel like I’m hooked’
She said, ‘Don’t worry the world belongs to those that too often dream’.

The last two lines sound great in French, but I couldn’t capture the same rhythm, it all rhymes in French too -prétentieux/cieux, accroc/trop etc.  This just seemed to sum up for me my own thoughts about poetry.  I used to think that it was useless and meaningless, a pretty arrangement of words on the page with no realtion to my life and to be honest not something a man would boast about liking.  Now I think that good poetry can describe better than anything else what it’s like to be alive and feel and question.

The full French lyrics to the song are here: 


29 May, 2007

This is a poem I wrote a couple of years ago, I always like the idea that our minds are as good at colouring in the world with imagination when we are awake as when we are asleep.  Bref, here it is:

It’s know by all in sleep we dream, yet this is little known:
That when our ‘lids spring up for day, our minds cease not their nightly play,
But spin, and dream, and roam.
They cast their nets despite the Sun, the eye of heaven bright,
How are we then, my fellow men, to see to the dark from light?

First post
29 May, 2007

This blog will be my attempt to share some of my thoughts with anyone out there who wants to read them.  My influences are diverse:  from George Orwell, Percy Shelly, E.M. Forster, I’ve just been reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Roots Manuva, Klashnekov, Yungun, Sway and the other UK rappers, and the French slam poetry of ‘Grand Corps Malade’.  I was brought up on old Blues, went to a good school, onto University, lived abroad and learnt French for a couple of years, now back at University studing International Politics and getting a slightly more balanced view of things!  Looking at particularly ‘political economy’ – and people like Susan Strange, Karl Polanyi and a few others. 

Stepping into dodgy philosophical ground, I get the feeling that the scientific revolution has run its course, and all that model making, theory building, graph drawing when related to the social sciences (history, politics, economics) has made us forget that ‘human beings’ and their often irrational ways are at the centre of these processes.  In short, I think that the scientific world-view when dealing with social subjects needs to be softened by a bit of humanism.  We shouldn’t forget that the Renaissance was heady mix of the scientific and humanistic and the two schools only split up at the end of the eighteenth-century (scientists where still called ‘natural philosophers’ in the nineteenth-century).  Has the time come for them to retie the knot?