January 17, 2006By Heidi EllisonWhat's New Art & Culture

Sweet Sounds of the Suburban Melting Pot

Something new for la chanson française.

The young singer/songwriter Anis Kachohi may have been born and bred in a Paris suburb, but he is no car-burning delinquent, as the media would have us believe most youthful banlieusards are. Better-known as just Anis, this good-natured 28-year-old has even written affectionate songs about his suburb: “Cergy, mon petit paradis/Ma sweet banlieue pourrie.” (“Cergy, my little paradise/My sweet rotten suburb”).

Anis didn’t always feel at home in his banlieue, however: the son of a Moroccan father and a Russian mother, he was made to feel his difference while growing up.

A one-man musical melting pot, he absorbed the hip-hop, reggae, punk and blues music he listened to as a boy and has recycled them into his new album, La Chance (Virgin/EMI). Other disparate influences included Billie Holiday, Tom Waits, Edith Piaf and John Lee Hooker. Throwing them all into the mix, he has come up with a seductively original album that’s full of joie de vivre.

Like an American teenager, Anis used to hang out at the mall with his buddies, until they decided to get serious and formed a group called K2 Riddim, which had some success. After breaking away from the group to pursue his own musical interests, he got his real musical training by singing in the Paris Métro, where he started out with the standard subway fare, the two Bobs – Marley and Dylan – and then moved on to his own compositions.

In a Hollywood moment, he was discovered in the Métro by an artistic director from Warner, who helped him record a CD, Gadjo Décalé (Tchad House, 2003), of which 1,000 copies were made. In the song “My Métro,” he pays homage to his former underground concert hall, where “the pickpockets go about their work/ while the mice dance on the rails.”

Anis freely salts his lyrics with banlieue slang and English words: “My lady s’en fout tes shoes ce qu’elle kiffe c’est mon reggablues, et puis c’est ma p’tite gueule and I qu’elle a choose.” (“My lady doesn’t give a damn about your shoes, what she digs is my reggablues/and it’s my mug and me that she ‘choose’”).

Anis may be a high-school dropout, but his songs are full of intelligence, a certain wisdom about life, and lots of humor. It’s something new for la chanson française.

Heidi Ellison

© 2006 Paris Update

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