Occitan Festival in Rodez

The various cultural irridentisms that have marked Europe since the sixties have always made me feel uneasy. The enemy was (& remains) the nation-state, so what’s the point of creating more nation-statelet subunits based on the same perceived unification points: sameness of language & supposed historical-cultural experience. Sameness as core identity can of course only be percieved against a (to be loathed & excluded) difference. If the nation-states of France, Germany or England seemed to me the geriatric political structures that needed to be overcome, then a new kingdom of Brittany or republic of Corsica or Countdom of Occitania were not the way to go. I may be phobic in these matters, due to the fact that I was raised in one of those nano-nation states, the “Grand”- Duchy of L. (the smaller the place gets, the more high-faluting the title), a place whose treacle-sweet trap I managed to escape at eighteen — but that’s another story.

So it was with some trepidation that I arrived at Rodez for the last two days of the Occitan summer festival — Estivada 2005 — convinced to go there by Nicole Peyrafitte whose Pyrenean roots are core to her work as performance artist & singer, & who had been there last year. (Rodez is a hilltop city which turned out to also be fun for 12 year old son Miles, a passionate skateboarder who immediately linked up with the Rodezian skateboarders & had a ball.) I was most pleasantly surprised in that most of the music we saw was not of the reactionary folklorist order, but was inventive and forward looking, using local Occitan traditions in song materials and instruments, but bringing them squarely into the present. L’ola s’abronda or Loule Sabronde in French (& which could be translated as “pot on the boil”) consist of a singer/bass-clarinet/guitar, a bass guitarist and a percussionist (all three of which also using samplers), while using older and current Occitan material — both musically and language-wise (the Rouergian patois of Occitan in fact) —, explored musical spaces that traversed electronic music, free jazz, rock, & twisted folk-pop (check out a couple of their tunes on their site). Or the next day a very young singer (with guitar & sampler) called Sarg who used the guitar most sparingly, but with voice & sampler built ever more complexly layered sound structures into which to set his songs, going from (what I believe were) Peire Vidal lyrics (hauntingly re-invented in a gutsy rock mode) to his own compositions, close to what one could call sound-poetry, moving from semantically clear elements to pure sound. I cannot find any information on him on the web, but in the Occitan avant-garde domain he is certainly one of the more visible and energetic presences.

So I may still not think that a political nation-state entity called Occitania or whatever would be a viable proposition, but the cultural limit- and border-crossing experience possible under the present situation is certainly not only viable but makes for a totally interesting and ground-breaking art. More on this as I can.

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2 Responses

  1. Sarg says:

    Hi, Thinks a lot for what you say about my work. In fact, the Troubadour’s text was of Pèire de Cardenal. And others writers like Jean Bodon, Gilbert Mercadier, Serges Carles or Marcelle Delpastre. And others who are anonim. Actually, this performans was my first with this kind of work. I’m triying to found some places to perform.
    In Occitania, people used to follow the dance only with voices. I just try to come back to this tribal and roots way to dance and, if it’s possible, mooving trad occitan music to something more… gothic Electronic and rock?
    In this moment, i’m triying to found a label and a producteur. If you want, sand me your adress and I will sand you my cd demo.

    Thanks a lot

    Sarg

    sarg1@free.fr

  2. Anonymous says:

    nice site

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