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Lisa Ducasse - Institut Francais, London, 21/6/2023

  by Steev Burgess

published: 30 / 8 / 2023

Lisa Ducasse - Institut Francais, London,  21/6/2023

Somehow, somewhen, I got on the list to be notified for the annual Fête de la Musique and other cultural events at the Institute Francais. I’m glad I did, as it it flagged up a rare opportunity to see one of the rising stars of French music on her first trip to England as an adult in a showcase gig. This year’s star attraction for the school children’s French Pop video awards ceremony is barefoot performer Lisa Ducasse, a published poet who, like Leonard Cohen, a songwriter she covers, came to song writing later and who has a wide-eyed, childlike sense of wonder and wanderlust that has taken her from her childhood home in Mauritius to live in Paris and tour South America. The tall, thin singer with long black hair is the daughter of a journalist, poet and song translator. She only has one EP to her name at the moment, but has already played live at the prestigious L’Olympia in Paris with her unique blend of spoken word poetry and modern chanson. Her intrepid nature took her to Brazil to study that country's music and, after playing some tour dates there, she decided to stay and sing her way through South America with further dates in Uruguay and Chile where the artist treated us to a song in homage to the colourful city of Valparaiso. Slipping easily from French to English to Spanish and Creole, the wistful singer took us on a journey with enchanted songs about departure, travel, and travelling through memories. Most of the songs performed were written on the road "not so much about the trip itself but more about the idea of leaving and the moment of departure and whatever brings that on. Whether they are imaginary departures or wished ones". She opened acapella, then placed red and blue vinyl discs of backing tracks on a cute little portable dansette, to sing and play keyboards with. “I call her Apoline,” said Lisa, “so I’ll never be alone on tour." When 'Apoline La Platine's backing slides to an early finish Lisa says that "like real musicians sometimes it does unexplainable things and I have to pretend it's normal." Someone suggests 'Xavier the Clavier' as a name for the keyboard which Lisa thinks "is wonderful" . The fairly short set, included her own songs and a cover of French language legend Jacques Brel's 'La Chanson des Vieux Amants' ('Song for Old Lovers)' which her father translated from French into Mauritian Creole for the first time .“You’ll make an old man very happy if you applaud,” she said, as the concert was being relayed live. After the concert, there was a live interview on stage, an excellent way to get to know a new artist to these shores. Interestingly, Lisa tends to write poetry in English and songs in French, because that’s the ways she heard her influences sing, people such as Brel and Barbara and more recently, Alain Bashung. Lisa’s songs are not re-treads of the past though. The arrangements are more sparse with modern beats rather than orchestration, allowing her lyrics and sweet voice to float above them to the fore, Ducasse has begun recording her debut album due for release in April 2024 in Paris. “The album will be mainly be in French, with perhaps La Chansons des Vieux Amants in Mauritian Creole," says the singer. There is already a simple but stylish video for this track up on YouTube and Ducasse plans to drop another track from the album this coming September. “I am not a musician, but my team helps me explore sound colours” she says, poetic even in interview. We don’t get many of the great French artists visiting England and when we do they often fly under the radar with gigs advertised on French websites and mainly playing to the many French expats here in London. It’s to the credit of the Institut Francais that inward looking Brexit Britain still gets to see French film and music acts such as Lisa Ducasse.

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Lisa Ducasse - Institut Francais, London,  21/6/2023

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