Kendji Girac: Amigo

On the Road

Listening Post 186. As one of France’s leading recording artists, Kendji Girac knows the rigors of a marathon tour—indeed, before voice or instrument, his earliest training was for the road. He was born in the Dordogne to a family of Catalan-speaking Gypsies who spent six months of every year in a caravan. His father taught him to prune trees and his grandfather taught him guitar. When he was 16 his uncle filmed him singing a flamenco adaptation of Bella, a popular hip-hop song, and posted the video on YouTube; soon came the call from The Voice: la plus belle voix. To say Girac won the competition would be an understatement: He became the best selling alumnus of The Voice franchises worldwide. The foundations of his music are Gypsy folk-pop and his velvety voice in French and Spanish. On Amigo, his third album (all charted number 1) he works with a stellar team of writers, notably singer-songwriter Vianney and rapper-lyricist Damso; Girac also shares lyric/composition credits on nine of the album’s 13 tracks. As the title suggests, much of Amigo revolves around friendship, plus Gypsy identity. In Tiago, he pledges support to a childhood friend: “If you get into a fight/We’ve got four hands to play” (video 1). Pour Oublier (To Forget) proposes revelry as an antidote to stress and also channels some iconic lines from Georges Brassens (video 2). Maria Maria amps up a tale of passion with an urban beat (video 3), and Que Dieu Me Pardonne (God Forgive Me) offers a calmer take on imperfection and striving to improve (video 4). Album highlights also include the tender Tu Vas Manquer (You’ll Be Missed), an ode to a friend who passed away; and the optimistic Yo Cantare (I’ll Sing). At 22, Girac already has a storied career—and the road beckons. (Mercury Music Group)

Footnote: The spark of Kendji Girac’s career was the performance of Bella posted on YouTube in 2013 (video 5). One of the song’s composers was Renaud Rebillaud, who has contributed to all three of Girac’s albums.

 

Tiago
Lyrics: Vianney/Music: Vianney, Renaud Rebillaud
(from the French lyrics)
When we were kids/
My friend, we rowed
But now that we’re men/We’ve put the oars away
If tears come to you/Come share them with me
Gypsies… we’re Gypsies
This is for what we were made for 

Tiago, I took the time to write you/A melody, in thousand smiles
Tiago, I took the time to remind you/My friend, I’m with you, even in the worst of times
Whoever makes fun of you/Makes fun of me, too
Twenty years from now, you’ll see/We’ll be laughing about it
If you get into a fight/We’ve got four hands to play
Gypsies, we’re Gypsies/God gave us fists

My friend my friend my friend, Tiago/My friend my friend my friend, Tiago
Tiago, I took the time to write you/A melody, in thousand smiles
Tiago, I took the time to remind you/My friend, I’m with you, even in the worst of times

 

Pour Oublier/To Forget
Lyrics: Vianney/Music: Vianney, Renaud Rebillaud
(from the French lyrics)
Children of the city, children of the country
Let’s create an island for ourselves, where we can be happy
No work on the horizon/Not because we’re lazy but because we’ve been through so much 

So we’ll pursue a bit of joy/To save in our bags for when things get tough
And tomorrow the clock will stop/As Georges would put it, It goes without saying! (Ça va de soi!)*

We’ll party hearty/Behave like kings
To clear our heads/And forget everything
We’ll party hearty/Behave like kings
To clear our heads/To forget, forget, forget, forget 

The time we spend crying is piling up in our suitcases/It’s time that breaks our backs, that breaks us
Forget the clock that kills as it turns/As Georges would put it, Of course! (Bien entendu!)*

There’s no future or past/There’s no future or past
There’s no future or past/Just dance, dance

*The citations of “Georges” refer to lyrics from “La Mauvaise Réputation” by Georges Brassens

 

Maria Maria
Lyrics: Damso/Music: Kendji Girac, Felipe Saldivia, Fred Savio, Florian Rossi
(from the French/Spanish lyrics)
And it starts again/I speak to her of love only in silence
My eyes savor the shape of her hips/Between distrust and what she thinks about it
I take her curves and my chances improve/I wonder what she’ll do on impulse
Cricks in the neck/I want to hear her full melody
We’ll spend all night there/And as always it starts again
Tell me, tell me, tell me 

Maria, Maria, Maria/Tell me what you want to do in the dark
Maria, Maria, Maria/Tell me what you want to do in the dark

It’s amazing/She’s afraid of flying but always wants to see Seventh Heaven
Telling her how I feel is pointless/She blows up at me eight days a week
I’ve seen her feelings lined up/I took photos of her in miniature
I do my best, she does the least/I say “See you soon,” she tells me “I won’t be here”
Everything bounces off her heart/There’s no love there, only moods
I want you to die for me, me/Put me above yourself
I want you to die for me
Tell me, tell me, tell me

Maria, Maria, Maria/Tell me what you want to do in the dark
Maria, Maria, Maria  

Maria you drive me crazy/The temperature, like the night, is hot
And everything an adventure
Maria, how pure/Look at me Maria, how you heal me with your body
Truh, truh, truh, truh, truh, truh and you try

Maria, Maria/Maria tchen-tchen Maria
Maria, Maria/Maria tchen-tchen Maria

 

Que Dieu Me Pardonne/God Forgive Me (duet with Claudio Capéo)
Lyrics and Music: Laurent Lamarca, Renaud Rebillaud, Davide Esposito
(from the French lyrics)
We’d have to be Gods/We’d have to be strong
As if crying were only/For those who are wrong
We’d have to dance/And hide our pain
Be the last to cry/Never show you’re afraid

We’d have to be kings/We’d have to act proud
As if giving up/Was only for losers
We’d to have strike hard/And puff out our chests
Be the first to sing out/Louder

But may God forgive me/I do it all by instinct
I’m just a man/Maybe a good-for-nothing
But may God forgive me/I wear my heart on my sleeve
If I sometimes I give up/It’s to do better the next day

We’d have to smart/Be an ode to joy
Every time someone one asks/“How are you doing?”
We’d have to push everyone away/And be the first to shout
Look at me!

But may God forgive me/I do it all by instinct
I’m just a man/Maybe a good-for-nothing
But may God forgive me/I wear my heart on my sleeve
If I sometimes give up/It’s to do better the next day

In my eyes, in my eyes everything amazes me
My heart, my heart radiates
What I have, what I have, I give
Oh oh oh oh oh oh

 

Kendji Girac at 16: From a trailer camp to YouTube to The Voice to a storied career.


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