Multicultural Sounds Power 'Chebran Volume 2: French Boogie 1982-1989'

Chebran Volume 2 continues Born Bad Records' exploration of French boogie from '70s and '80s, with Volume 2 focusing on the years 1982-89.

Chebran Volume 2: French Boogie 1982-1989
Various Artists

Born Bad

15 June 2018

If "boogie" sounds stylistically obscure to today's listeners, it's because it represents phenomenalism in its purest form: a meshing of styles, proto-styles, and sub-genres into a musical category defined by the pure physicality of its groove. The roots of so many styles can be found here, from New Wave and post-punk to funk carioca, synthpop, hip-hop, and modern R&B. The overarching quality of the sound lies in its unselfconscious embrace of diversity.

There's a sense of play in the electronic side of these tracks; a childish delight in the ability to mesh instruments together and produce beats and groove. There is a free-form nonchalance to early hip-hop, refreshing when juxtaposed against the tortured over-production that layers today's singles.

Importantly, this was music designed for radio. You can feel it: this is music for driving, for feeling the breeze in your hair through open car tops. The beats sync naturally with the rhythms of the road; the street; the sand and waves and anywhere else a ghettoblaster could bring it. This is music to dance to; to feel; in which to immerse oneself in pure sensory euphoria.

French boogie of the period was indelibly shaped by the world music influences drawn toward the country's urban centers as a consequence of its 19th- and 20th-century colonialism. North African beats are ubiquitous, lending a Middle Eastern sound at times to the various tracks. Convergence went both ways: French-born rockers found themselves drawn toward reggae and African funk, while music producers and even educators encouraged the country's African diaspora to pick up instruments and become rock stars, in the name of either profit or community building (or both).

Radio was another important element of this explosive moment of musical innovation; the liberalizing of French airwaves and licensing of unprecedented numbers of independent radio stations further spurred on experimentation with new sounds and new artists, as everyone strove to find a niche and stand out as unique. It was a perfect storm for musical innovation, and French boogie was the serendipitous beneficiary.

The album's liner notes tell a stirring story in photos alone. The deeply rooted diversity, the sense of promise and the equally uncertain future of this musical moment are all expressed in irrepressibly optimistic picture format: the awkwardly donned college jackets of musicians who feel they should look like rockers despite the fact their music was nothing like rock 'n' roll. The gleeful poses in sweats and athletic outfits perched triumphantly over a ghettoblaster – mobile assault unit of the new music movement – a band member doing the splits because why not. The sultry gaze and carefully coiffed New Wave hairdo of a musician whose funk is not remotely New Wave but doesn't know how else to convey his avant-garde'ness. This is a movement which unselfconsciously embraced all these identities because it fit at once everywhere and nowhere.

The convergence of styles is reflected in the compilation's musical selections above all. It's there in the apt title of Phil Barney's "Funk Rap"; in the hint of post-punk guitar riffs on Shams Dinn's "Hedi Bled Noum"; in both the evocatively middle-eastern title and vocal sampling of Philippe Chany's "Cairo Connection." Creole Star's "Break Magic Da" is pure early hip-hop, reduced to its basics of beat and rhyme. Ethnie's "De Chagrin En Chagrin" opens with Middle Eastern flute but quickly descends into funky bass beats spun around a vocalist who sounds like he belongs in a New Wave band.

There's the gentle groove of JM Black's "Lipstick"; a funk chorus interspersed with proto-rap. Nordine Staïfi's "Dansez le Raksi" combines gentle grooves with sultry French male vocals, while Brigit et Michot's "Ta Face Preface" turns up the funk in a minimalist upbeat manner.

There's a hint, too, of the harder edge to come, expressed above all in Ettika's eponymous track, which evokes the dark-edged freestyle sampling of baile funk. Hamidou's "Jawla Feli" is truly unique: rough-edged, slightly distorted electronic beats and sampling whose poor production quality conveys a deliberately dark sound; this is coupled with rapping evocative of a Gallic Falco in all its aggressive enunciation. Ganawa's "Yamna" combines urgent, angry beats with a faintly Middle-Eastern rhythm, sped up and irresistibly danceable.

Most tracks are irrepressibly dancy: stand-outs include Sammy Massamba's "Propriete Privee," with its African funk-rock beats, while Alfio Scandurra's "Qu'est-ce Qui Ne Va Pas?" is proto-techno in its beat and sampling structure. Marie Jose Fa's "C'est Tabou" returns to the funk groove but blends it with exquisitely timed female rapping. Manu's "La Rage du Funky", meanwhile, is almost pure Kraftwerk; a gorgeous wave of layered synthesizers and robotic vocalizations that sweep over the listener as only early '80s synthwave can. But this is boogie first and foremost, and Joel Ferrati's "Pourquoi Tante De Haine" closes out the album with upbeat keyboard rhythms and aggressive hip-hop vocals.

Chebran Volume 2 offers French boogie of a particular historical moment, but its greatest contribution lies in the timelessness of its message: it doesn't matter where music comes from, what matters is how it makes you feel. Remarkably inventive; gloriously appropriative; the raw creative power of early French boogie deserves a timeless audience.






A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.


Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.


Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.


Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.


'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.


Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.


Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.


Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.


The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.