Monster Mélodies presents "Théâtre Musical", an unpublished public recording by Brigitte Fontaine and Areski Belkacem dating from 1973. Limited edition, 1000 numbered copies, on a coloured vinyl.
Areski Belkacem and Brigitte Fontaine, major artists of the French counterculture, were firstly recognised in Japan and then in the United States, strangely, more than in their own country, even though they ended up achieving a cult status in France. Their old recordings continue to be distributed today in international markets despite the language differences.
Tremendously creative and often extremely confusing in the content and form of their production, they will often be censored or deliberately ignored by the media. Their libertarian positions attacking both the barbarism of capitalism and communism, and their remarks against racism, alienation of individuals, colonisation, the condition of women, abortion, unsanitary housing, the massacre of the Palestinians, many serious subjects which mixed with a poetry of classical style or in free verse, interpreted in a falsely naive and absurd way require despite their apparent simplicity, a real intellectual effort to be decoded.
An inconsistency in the world of music where artists have to stay smooth and predictable sticking to their roles as entertainers. If they are among those artists whose work has made the richness of French culture, their careers suffered from a certain sidelining from the general public, of which nevertheless they have the sympathy.
Obtaining success at a late stage, it was not until the album "Kékéland" in 2001 and "Rue Saint Louis en l'Ile" in 2004, for Brigitte Fontaine to earn gold records certifying her sales despite her singing career starting thirty-eight years earlier in 1963.
This is one of the many points in common with Serge Gainsbourg, who began his career in 1958 and obtained a first gold record in 1977, thanks to his reggae album “Aux Armes et Cætera”, a recognition nineteen years later. Two artists who, raising different topics, each in their own way, shook up their era, innovated musically in a thought provoking way, created themselves as extraordinary characters, while cultivating their passion for the French language.
At the turn of Brigitte Fontaine's career, when breaking away from the Jacques Canetti team (where she had abandoned a cabaret song which she had maliciously mistreated with cynical lyrics of her own, breaking the clichés of the time in the same manner as Boris Vian) she made new encounters. After collaboration with Jacques Higelin, she meets Areski Belkacem.
The musician became her unwavering companion in the city and on stage and was of great importance in the success of her career.
She then met Pierre Barouh who supported the Fontaine Areski duo, by producing a handful of cult albums with uncertain sales with Saravah his out of the ordinary label. As well as meeting Jean Karakos, boss of the BYG label for the album "The Fire", leaving the field open to the two artists for all their experiments. They became the first musicians in France blending free jazz with their own musical production in recording with the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Their free music accompanies the free inventive and provocative poetry of Brigitte Fontaine. They were the first to try their hand at world music before the term was invented, the first to experiment with electro sounds in 1977 for the album "Vous et Nous", and finally the first to perform in shows combining songs and theatre, revolutionising traditional singing tours.
Theatre remains the first passion of Brigitte, who began to perform on stage at the age of twelve in a play by Marivaux before continuing with classical repertoires Audiberti, Molière, Giono, Vian, Genet. In the company of Rufus and Jacques Higelin, they performed in their own play "Maman j’ai Peur” (“Mummy I am Scared”) in 1966, then "Niok" in 1969 with Higelin still, joined by Areski. Brigitte Fontaine will create many more plays over the years interspersing her theatrical career, the fruit of various collaborations with her singing career.
Constantly active, Areski and Fontaine went on the most improbable tours scouring small provincial theatres, playing in prisons and psychiatric hospitals, playing for the Renault workers in Boulogne Billancourt, at the huma festival, performing in support of workers' rights, at Lipp on strike, losing themselves in confidential and financially catastrophic tours, including in Canada and in Algeria in 1970 only ten years after the conflict.
From 1975, with record sales remaining confidential, only a plethora of literary production, novels, poems, tales, short stories will allow the singer to survive economically. Today, despite the years, the couple is still pursuing new projects. Brigitte Fontaine is currently performing on stage “Terre Neuve” her album released in January 2020.
If we wanted to evoke the musical career of Brigitte Fontaine, there would be three parts: the atypical “Rive Gauche” singer from 1963 to 1969 which includes her collaboration with Jacques Higelin, the duet with Areski from 1969 to 1984, then thereafter a gap in 1980, a period where she sang solo (although the duo still collaborate) since 1984 to today.
A break from stage to break with the seventies image and renew her career, which is still as fanciful and provoking. The singer no longer marginalises herself but always balances on a thread fighting tooth and nail for her independence in the show business of which she is now part, accentuating her strangeness. For the new generations she is the great poetic punk priestess.
The record "Theatre Musical" was recorded in 1973. A year which was a turning point in the career of the duo, the two artists deciding to perform on stage without musicians to accompany them and in a stripped-down staging which only included clothes and garlands hanging from clotheslines, comedy masks and their instruments.
The songs, which we find here, are all filled with the inventive and offbeat poetry of Brigitte Fontaine, accompanied by atypical music created by the excellent musician Areski Belkacem, they appear on their various albums published between 1971 and 1973 but are here interpreted in their simpler expression, on stage, without the help of other musicians, the duo accompanying themselves on guitar, percussion and accordion.
A recital taking as much of the singing as of the theatre, or happening such as the two artists produced between 1973 and 1979, in a unique way and of which it remains here the only testimony.
The recording of this concert at studio 102 of the Maison de la Radio dating May 21st 1973, had been broadcasted on “France Culture” on November 2nd 1973 but remained unpublished until now.