Some of us love songs for the lyrics, but sometimes, even when the language is our own, the lyrics are unintelligible yet still we’re smitten with the music – and, in the case of Fanfan et Marco, who we saw at Au Limonaire on Sunday night in Paris, the performance of Chanson.
The language of course was French, which we’re both fairly awful at, but the music was that of chanson, which, ironically, is lyric-driven. However, the chemistry between the Fanfan and Marco, the infectious and often quirky tunes they performed, their burlesque style of comedy, and the warm response of the audience, was an irresistible combination.
Over a bottle of red wine together after the show, we asked Fanfan and Marco about their Chanson music and why they think their show works so well.
“It’s very different to anything else around,” Fanfan admits.* “It’s a melange of music, musical comedy, theatre, art, and dance. For me, although I’m a comedian, it is mostly theatre.”
“For me, it is more comedy,” Marco says. “The first degree is comic – and we work hard on the comic moments, but of course I’m a musician so the music is important. I guess we are a human comedy. But our music is punk.”
“What we do is we take a song that has had some force in the French music world and we change it, the way we sing it and perform it. We have fun with the song and sometimes we make fun of it. We work and we work and we work together on the song. We work hard on the humour, to get the audience to laugh – everybody laughs, but there are different levels of laughter,” Marco explains. “In the end, basically, we make it our own.”
We ask the unlikely duo – Fanfan is an older woman, and Marco, a much younger man – how they came to work together.
“We met the first time a couple of years ago at the end of a show just like this,” Marco reveals. “I was in a group and she was in another group. My group sang a Sex Pistols song and Françoise (Fanfan’s real name) totally slammed it. I played the piano but I was clowning around. After the show, she called me.”
The two admit there is a strange magic between them, which Fanfan thinks is the key to their success.
“This is important – the life between the performers, the relationship between the two people, it is important. I’m old, he’s young, but there’s no judgement between us, we never judge each other,” Fanfan says.
“In France, there are not a lot of young men working with older women, although we see the opposite,” Marco says. “Yet the audience seems to love this. One of the first songs I ever loved, Françoise wanted to sing it… it was sung by a young woman originally, but when Françoise sang it, it was incredible.”
Françoise admits that their shared background – despite the age difference – may have something to do with their success working together. Both grew up in the suburbs. Françoise came from Banlieue 93, Seine-Saint-Denis, and Marco from Banlieue 94, Val-de-Marne.
“At 16 I worked in a factory that made car engines. My parents had told me to work in a factory. All of the people around me were working people,” Fanfan says. “But it was a boyfriend who inspired me. I loved performing and he encouraged me to apply for a theatre scholarship. It took me nine years to change. I lived with him for 20 years. It was very complicated!”
“I do think I’m lucky because I haven’t always accepted the chances that came my way. It’s difficult for me to meet people. I think I’m a bit mad really. I’m fragile,” Fanfan admits. “And this is why I rarely travel. I stay in Paris. Paris is where my roots are. I know where I am and I can travel in my head.”
We asked Fanfan and Marco to create a Paris playlist for us based on their whimsical set list that night. These are their five favourite songs and the French performers who they think did them best.
A Paris Chanson Music Playlist
Borderline – Philippe Katerine
Fleur de rond point – David Lafore
DJ – Diam’s
Fric Frac – L Gauthier & M Gauthier (Note: this version is by Luna Parker )
La Confiture – Les Frère Jacques
*A big merci to slam poet Luce who helped translate for Fanfan.