Monday, March 28, 2011

Flanerie, Bordeaux-style . . .

Friday evening, we strolled down Rue de Sainte Catherine, apparently the longest pedestrian street in Europe.
A lively, happy buzz of voices warmed by the street's lively acoustics, smiles everywhere thanks to the warm weather . . .
Interesting cross streets to peer down . . .
Certain charming Canadian men to watch -- oops! that's Pater, he's mine. . .
More peering -- and of course we ended up wandering the side streets later, and found a wonderful spot for dinner (I'll collect my recommended spots into a small post later)
A few blocks into Rue de Sainte Catherine, the buzz of voices began to be accompanied by something more insistent, something that became louder as we walked along, and finally drew us in to listen in front of these three musicians
In the very brief research I've done, the closest I've come to what that stringed instrument might be is a rabab, but I'm not at all sure I'm right.  The music itself is powerfully lively, toe-tappingly compelling. Middle Eastern or North African would be my guess, although the accordion/squeeze-box surprised me. But then, these traditions are often much more overlapping and adaptable than they are fixed, and my ignorance is capacious.
What I loved watching here, once the music reeled me in, was the dynamic between the players, as in the best Classical chamber music or jazz ensembles. This young fellow, already a fine musician-- what rhythms he could assert with his flying fingers, improvising wildly as he watched his stringed colleague intently. His face was a delight to watch, so openly did it express his love, not only of the music, and of performing with his musical peers, but also of the audience, especially those of us who stopped to watch appreciatively.  I don't know that the money we left in the instrument case had much to do with his joy at all -- he quite happily nodded his permission for me to take the photos . . .

I know some people who get impatient with street musicians, and I know they can occasionally be somewhat pesky (and loud!), but I generally appreciate the randomness of the cheap (free theoretically, but I can rarely pass without stopping and dropping a coin, at least) concert. What about you? Any favourite memories of wonderful busking?


  1. I love street music, street food- anywhere. Such a lively scene you've shown, must have been a wonderful evening; thank you!

  2. I went there recently when we were staying in France, my sister had flown into the airport so we collected her then went into the town for the day, Kitty was recovering from sunstroke and Leyla was a 3 year old pain in the butt. Your photographs of Bordeaux look very different from mine although I vaguely remember that square. Did you find the old bit? This is where we spent most of the day.
    Have you found that once out of Paris the fashions change to a longer more flowing style?

  3. Looks charming mater...the energy of the musicians and the variety of shops makes one want to take to the streets!

  4. Such a lovely street scene! I love street music as well, especially when the musicians seem to be enjoying themselves. I heard a talk once about how much cross-pollination of different regions' musical styles occurred, even as far back as the Middle Ages and Renaissance. So that it's still going on seems natural and fitting.

  5. Were they maybe gypsies, your musicians?

  6. Duchesse: it was fun! I know you would have enjoyed the evening as well.
    Alison: While I have some nostalgia about travelling with our kids, I must admit it's ever so much easier on our own! We did get to some older sections as well.
    Hostess: It's the place to be when travelling, imho.
    Pseu: that would have been an interesting talk!
    Lisa: I did wonder, but the music was def. Arabic/N. African . . . and we saw the string player the next morning walking to town ahead of us as we visited the section of town that seemed to house the Moroccans and other Arab immigrants.

  7. They look Tzigane (or Rom) to me Materfamilias. I'll look out for them.

  8. Rue de Sainte Catherine!

    It's lovely to see these photos. We have some as well.

  9. Hard to tell from a few thousand miles away, but that mystery instrument looks to me like an electric violin. Once you electrify the instrument, the shape is more for style than sound--that's a particularly fun variation!

  10. Thanks, L -- it certainly played like a violin. I really wish I'd forced myself to speak to the musicians and found out a bit more about what they were doing.
    I had a look at your blog, btw, and wow! are you ever energetic!

  11. Thanks! For us, working at home is easy--I'm more impressed by the energy it takes to travel as you do!


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