From the Archive-
Lo Cor De La Plana Celebrates Centuries Old Occitan Language and Culture
By E. Joyce Glasgow, www.artsandculturescene.com
*This article is from the archives and was originally published in the Seattle Gay News Arts and Entertainment Section, after the concert in 2009. Now that I have my own website, I am re-publishing articles and photos from my archives as the information about the artists and venues is as valid now as it was then in learning more about these particular artists and venues.*
Lo Cor De La Plana is a six member, polyphonic, male accapella singing group, formed in 2001, who sing in their native, ancient Occitan language, combining tradition and heritage with the influences of 21st century city life. They are from the La Plaine quarter of Marseilles, the largest city in southern France and a musical melting pot for twenty-six centuries, influenced by the music of the Mediterranean, Africa and Italy.
The sextet accompanies themselves only with stomping feet, clapping hands and hand drums/tambourines. They are earthy, bold and vibrant and their material is new, mysterious and exciting for most contemporary ears here in the U.S.
Occitan, (also known as Provencal or Languedoc), is one of the oldest living languages in Europe and was spoken for centuries in the southern Provence region of what is now France, until the French came along to dominate with their own language and culture. It is closest to the Catalan language. Many people in our contemporary times are not aware that the Occitan language, mistakenly considered archaic and long forgotten and mostly now associated romantically with the aristocratic poetry of the historic troubadours of medieval times in the 12th and 13th centuries, is alive and well and spoken as a first language by around one and a half million people today.
Lo Cor de la Plana performed a highly anticipated concert, led by their founder, Manu Theron, at Town Hall in Seattle on March 27, 2009 as this season’s final offering of Town Hall’s annual “Global Rhythms” series. It was a great choice to present to the Seattle audience, who welcomed them enthusiastically!
Their lusty, urban folk songs were raucous, funny, suggestive, serious, and ribald, including comments on everything from love to greed to the police, and sounding like a blending of music that is medieval and contemporary, Balkan, Italian and Spanish, with Islamic style, mellismatic flourishes, on numbers with provocative and gritty titles including (in English translation here): “Ball Breaker”, “Lazy and Greedy”, “Get Out of My Way”, “The Cops”, “The Old Woman”, “The Young Bride”, “The Neighbour’s Daughter”, “Nine Maidens” (a reference conjectured possibly to homosexuality), and “The Big Noise”.
I love this articulate and passionate quote from their concert program and I think that readers will get a succinct idea of what the group is about from it:
“Our influences are everywhere-in churches, factories, bars, festivals or theatres, and we do not hesitate to mix disconcerting paganism of old Occitan backgrounds with the preoccupations of Marseille musicians of today. We do not renounce any influence, from Bartok to Massilia Sound System, or any origin, from Oran to Rove, as our only ambition is to evoke and resonate in our music all that our city and the world around it has given in terms of an environment of sounds. A police siren, a newborn baby, the remains of a paradise or a fantasyland, a drunken party, sheep, wolves… in short, the peaceful, heady passion of day-to-day life!”
Video of Lo Cor De La Plana
For more information on upcoming events at Town Hall visit: www.townhallseattle.org