A meeting – Grand Corps Malade (1)

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: http://www.paroles.net/chansons/39080.htm 

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One Response

  1. Salut! Et merci — I found your link here useful for my own blog. Grand Corps Malade is in a short film, Décroche, where he gives us some of ‘Rencontres’. There’s an extract from the film at this site; looks like you have to pay to see the whole thing though. Still, it’s a recent film and it might pop up at a festival or public TV station near you.

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