A poet for our times, Fabien Marsaud, better known as Grand Corps Malade, is a cult figure on the French slam scene who grew up in the tough suburbs north of Paris. He took his pseudonym, which means “Big Sick Body,” after a diving accident at age 20 left him permanently disabled.
The poignant and provocative video of his song “Au Feu Rouge,” which appears on his sixth album, Plan B (to be released on February 16 by Anouche Productions), pays tribute to the refugees who live in a camp set up by the French authorities at Porte de la Chapelle in an attempt to deal with the gnarly problem of migrants in Paris.
Porte de la Chapelle is the city gate in the north of Paris that takes travelers to Roissy Airport, Lille, Belgium and beyond, but for the refugees it is just one stop on a long and perilous journey. They are the stars of “Au Feu Rouge.”
Set to oriental-inspired music by Angelo Foley, the clip opens with individuals who stare into the camera as, one by one, it pans their faces. They hail from Syria, Somalia, Iran, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Eritrea, Chad, Guinea, and other conflict-torn countries. We learn their names and occupations: lawyer, accountant, hairdresser, housewife, blacksmith, tailor, student, engineer, electrician, dancer, driver, computer scientist. They are waiting in this urban limbo to know their fate. Asylum? Expulsion? More loneliness, fear and hunger?
“Au Feu Rouge” focuses on the story of Yadna, a young student who “dreams in Syrian but cries in French.” When she approaches the narrator’s car stopped at a red light to beg, he catches a glimpse of her and steps on the gas as soon as the light changes.
Then he starts to imagine her terrifying odyssey: across the Aegean Sea in a flimsy boat, at the mercy of smugglers and crooks, alone and never knowing which enemy to fear most.
While he initially dismisses her, by the end of the song he starts to crack: “The worst tragedies are unfolding before our eyes, but we’re in a rush, we gotta go/Those are human beings behind their gaze; I saw Yadna at the red light.”*
The refugee camp at Porte de la Chapelle is as much a part of Paris as the bistros, beaux quartiers and night lights reflected in the Seine. Knowing that people like Yadna live only one mile from my home in the 19th arrondissement, I was moved and disturbed by the faces in the video and the stories behind them. I had to ask myself, “So what are you going to do about it?” The clip ends with a message saying that the two centers where the refugees were filmed need clothing and other donations. If you want to help them, visit www.emmaus-paris.fr
* Les plus grands drames sont sous nos yeux mais on est pressé, faut qu’on bouge/Y’a des humains derrière les regards ; j’ai croisé Yadna au feu rouge