Despite what some people think, Parisians are fascinated by the Anglophone world. English-speakers are often surprised to learn that it’s the dream of many French youth to leave France for the UK or N. America so that they can escape the constraints of their relatively conservative society. Those without the gift of language skills look longingly to Montréal, that dreamy city where one can speak French but still feel American. (Most return after their first Québec winter.)
Relatively conservative? Paris? Well, compared to London… yes. In cuisine, fashion and music, absolutely. A trip across the manche will quickly convince anyone who has lived in Paris for a while that, for better or for worse, often the latter in my opinion, people make a much greater effort to individualize themselves in London. Goodbye to the seas of matching black clothing at Paris cafés; farewell to blandly-spiced “asiatique” cuisine; adieu to attractively unhappy brunette singer-songwriters. Hello to gutsy use of colour, brash drum’n'bass, fiery south Asian eats and an unabashed fusion of cultures everywhere you turn. I may be a francophile at heart – I’ll take Paris over London any day – but I’ll readily admit that Paris is London’s tamer, less integrated neighbour.
I was in London last week. Most evenings were busy with work nights out and catch-ups with friends but I did manage to see some music upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho. It was Friday, so it was Viva La Revolucion! night featuring live latin music. The band was Lokkhi Terra, a “Cuban Bengal” group from London.
Talk about a good example of London cultural mixing. Lokkhi Terra features Bengali, Indian and Cuban vocalists, drummers on congas and tablas, and horns backing-up the frontman, Kishon Khan, on piano. The enthusiastic crowd – very mixed in age, ethnicity and ability to dance – worked the bar for mojitos between salsas.
While I’ve grown to love the Paris music scene in its many forms, this live show was something that you wouldn’t find here. As a French teen might say, it was “so London.”bangladesh, cuba, england, jazz