Popular songs and music around the Mediterranean
For a long time the popular song has been ignored by historians. Nevertheless as an integral part of cultural history it is essential for tracking and describing collective sensibilities. Distributed widely, these often minor works are slices of ordinary life, elements of mediation in a society, giving a barely distorted reflection of reality.
Some of the songs have accompanied key moments in history, for example in Egypt in 1952
2007, Egypt's principal channel, the role of the national anthem in the July Revolution 1952.
Composers and singers tell anecdotes about this song which encourages love for one's country) or José Anfonso's Gandola vila morena which was the sound track and the radio theme tune of Portugal's 1975 Carnation Revolution. As far as inter-cultural relations, exile and migration are concerned, music as a means of expression has several dimensions. The historian can study either the lyrics or the music, but he can also look at the careers of those singers who have emigrated, see how their songs are received, where they are broadcast or again examine the economic issues driving the song market.
The very notion of an immigrant song infers continuity over a length of time, shedding light on a very current problem for historians: the link between colonisation, decolonisation and post-colonial society. Alain Ruscio or Claude and Josette Liauzu have shown how colonial songs lulled to sleep generations of French babies, filling their subconscious with necessarily reductive images.
The choice of a historical study about North African singers in the 20th century enables us to analyse real “cultural transfers” between the southern and northern sides of the Mediterranean. Often unwittingly, singers can be agents of cultural diplomacy around the Mediterranean. Most immigrant artists experienced the difficulties of being a migrant before either their talent or their luck enabled them to make a living from a very out-of-the-ordinary activity and thus pull themselves out of the unenviable condition of their compatriots for whose pleasure they sang.
North African popular music is a good way of showing changes in Mediterranean societies, it mirrors France's relationship with migrants and the migrants' relationship with their host country: first restricted to places where immigrants were dumped and forgotten, it then had widespread success in the 1980's.
 Claude Duneton, Anthologie de la chanson française des origines à 1860 (2 volumes), Paris,Seuil, 1998.
 Alain Ruscio Que la France était belle au temps des colonies, Paris, Maisonneuve et Larose, 2001.
 Claude and Josette Liauzu, Quand on chantait dans les colonies, Paris, Sylepse éditions, 2002.
 Yahya Djafri, « La chanson, miroir de l’immigration », in Magali Morsy (dir.), Les Nord-Africains en France, Paris, CHEAM, 1984
I- A generation of pioneers
II- A very particular geography...
III- Exile everywhere
IV- When the North African song...
For a long time the popular song has been ignored by historians. Nevertheless as an integral part of cultural history it is essential for tracking and describing collective sensibilities. Distributed widely, these often minor works are slices of ordinary life, elements of mediation in a society, giving a barely distorted reflection of reality. ...
Lecturer in contemporary history, University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, URMIS.