After living in France for a while I've got the chance to listen to amazing music in French. France is such a diverse country with culture and people from everywhere in the world and it reflects its musical scene, of course. I've decided to share a few musicians with you guys but I must say, not all of them are French. As this language is spoken in over 20 countries in the world the list below has singers from Quebec, Belgium, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and more.
I've added different genders too: rock from the '60s, rap from the '90s, Celtic, folk, pop, and variété française, a French special gender so you can dive into the real culture too. These artists, for the most part, are well-known in France but not so much outside the country, which is a pity so now I will share with you some of them. C´est parti!
Joe Dassin – He was an American-French singer-songwriter and actor. Very famous in France in the '70s. l´Été Indien is my favorite tune.
Renaud © AFP
Renaud – When I was an au pair in France my host family praised Renaud. Just like a saint image in a church, the poster of him would be displayed in our living room. He's a big star in France and it shone especially in the '80s.
Arthur H – Contemporary singer, painter, and designer. He's got a style that you can check out listening to here.
Fauve – It is a collective of artists who work especially in music, but also in literature, photography, and audiovisuals. For the latter, I see a certain similarity with the Icelandic group Sigur Rós in that their clips are true audiovisual works.
Noir Désir – They are from Bordeaux and a bit more known abroad. Their hottest hit is Le Vent Nous Portera
Mickey 3D – From the Val-de-Loire region, Mickey 3D exploded in the early 2000s with Respire.
French celtic music
Alan Stivell – The first artist from Brittany on the list and one of the greatest representatives of Celtic music in France. Alan Stivell is a multi-instrumentalist, playing especially the Celtic harp, but also bagpipes, Irish flute, and others in his concerts. Listen here. He sings in various Celtic languages, such as Breton, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, as well as French, and English. Listening to Stivell is an interesting musical experience.
This is the name of the popular music style in France mixing different elements.
Georges Brassens, © Getty / Jacques Haillot
George Brassens – La crème de la crème! George Brassens is considered one of the best poets and musicians of the post-war period in France. His voice and guitar are very articulate and harmonious, making an ode to the south of France, especially to the Languedoc-Roussillon region, the land of George Brassens. This song Les amoureux des banc public is one of the most popular.
Carmen Maria Vega - This amazing artist was born in Guatemala but raised in France has an original style. Besides being a singer she is also an actress. Listen to Qu'est-ce qu'il sont con, or "How stupid they are" in free translation.
Jacques Brel – Brel is a Belgian singer and songwriter, active in the 60s and 70s. He's the third best-selling Belgian recording artist of all time. The best song is Ces Gens-là if it can be considered a song. It is something unique. In addition, Jacques Brel wrote Ne Me Quittes Pas, known worldwide through the voice of Edith Piaf. Here is its original version:
Zaz– Isabelle Geffroy, also known as Zaz combines jazzy styles, soul, acoustic and.... Variété Française. A famous hit by Zaz is Je veux.
Cheak– This group is actually from Quebec. The vocabulary and pronunciation of the Québécois are very peculiar, can you spot the differences in their accent listening to this song?
Manau- Manau is a group from Brittany, western France, known for mixing hip-hop with Celtic influences (both in style and lyrics) typical of that region. The song La Tribu de Dana from the album Panique Celtique is the best known.
Doc Gyneco - Another rapper very well known here, especially in the 90s and 2000s. His stage name means "Dr. Gynecologist". Check out the first album: Première Consultation
Suprême NTM - The 90s were the golden age of rap in general. In France, it wasn't different. Suprême NTM is a group from the Paris suburbs and it's among the most classic ones as well.
IAM – The holy trinity of French rap is complete with IAM. Like MC Solaar and Suprême NTM, this Marseille group was formed in the late 80s and broke out in the 90s. Listen to the song Dark Maneuvers:
Soprano – Soprano is another representative from Marseille. He is one of the most listened-to pop artists today, everybody knows this guy. I leave the song Le Coach:
Maître Gims - This artist is born in Congo but eradicated in France. He's got the same style as Soprano. They are very well known and their songs play everywhere.
Kendji Girac - Kendji Girac is very popular too! He is a French guy who plays Latin pop songs like Andalouse
Raggae em francês
Alpha Blondy - One of the best reggae artists of all time. He comes from the Ivory Coast where one of the main languages is French. They have played with The Wallers, and sing in French and English. The song Les Chiens (The Dogs) criticizes religious radicalism.
Massilia Sound System - This Marseille reggae group plays in French but also in Occitan, the Provençal dialect and the most widely spoken in France. They mix local folklore with typical Marseille themes. Listen to here
La rue Ketanou - A street music band, they play gypsy, folk, pop, and reggae music.
The list is a reflection of France: an extremely multicultural and multiethnic country, with Parisians, Provençals, Africans, Breton, etc. forming the music scene.
You can share this list with your friends, and if you have more recommendations for French-speaking artists, leave them in the comments.