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Mc Solaar

Concert Review : Mc Solaar's performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall

By Matthieu Boisseau


The double Victoire winning French rapper Claude M'Barali alias Mc Solaar (1995 Male Artist of the year and 2008 Best Urban music album) performed in London on September 10 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Knowing all Mc Solaar's hits by heart, I was only too happy to perform my journalistic duties for Franceinlondon by agreeing to attend his concert, part of the 2010 London African Music Festival.


Soberly enlightened, Mc Solaar appeared on the Queen Elizabeth Hall's stage in the style of legendary French charismatic singers such as Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg, whose tormented body of work inspired him a lot. Wearing an elegant suit and a fashionable beret, he immediately encouraged the crowd to join in on the jazzy atmosphere embodied by the song “Je connais mon rôle”. From the very first songs it was obvious why MC Solaar is a performer who has reigned supreme on the stage for so long. The rapper and his friends (and backing rappers) Bambi Cruz and Arlini spread a dynamic feeling, with the singer Lara Bellerose and the multi-talented DJ K-Mille. Mc Solaar embued his show with fantastic variety, from the poetry slam's song “Victime de la Mode” to the high-pitched one “T'inquiètes”. The concert's pace became increasingly frenzied as the night went on until the Queen Elizabeth Hall was transformed into a friendly dancing-party hall- far removed from its traditional image of a classy and quiet concert hall. The standing ovation Mc Solaar received at the end of the show was a testament to quite how much the mainly French 30 year-old audience appreciated the show. So how does he do it?


First of all, Mc Solaar's success mainly rests on a graceful and warm flow emphasising lyrics in which each word seems like a sound-bite. But such a talent – needless to say that Claude M'Barali writes his own lyrics – must not eclipse his musical genius. Actually, his excellent vocal presence is due to the unbelievably skilful association between his tone of voice and his audacious musical arrangements. Moreover, Mc Solaar's aerial flow is defined by both a great breath control and a clear enunciation. It is somewhere between rap and spoken word, two universes of which this French pioneer of urban music manages to extract the essence. As a consequence, the audience praised both his lyrical brilliance and the fluidity of his flows. The concert was, undoubtedly, proof of his musical mastery. There was not one moment when Mc Solaar was not in complete control of his performance, no matter what the style of the song was. He made eclecticism go hand in hand with grace, from the Old School beat of 'Bouge de là' to the oriental melody of 'Inch'Allah'. This is proof that Claude Mc Solaar has matured, by trying to find other musical areas to explore. His latest albums are much more influenced by world music such as African beats, Indie Rock and even Pop. His initial classic hip-hop has become an open-minded rap, which has seduced fans around the world with its inventiveness. In the English Speaking world, collaborations with Missy Elliot and Guru have propelled Mc Solaar to even higher popularity, and did, of course the feature of “La belle et le bad boy” in the series finale of Sex and the City.


As a rhyme-addict and a literature lover, Mc Solaar is particularly fond of philosophical questioning, and as such many of his songs deal with topical issues. He takes us through his thoughts about, amongst other things, gun ownership (in Clic Clic), consumerism (in Carpe Diem) and the evil tyranny of image in contemporary society (in the cult song “Victime de la mode”). As a peaceful rapper, his favourite weapons are undoubtedly the literary techniques such as double entendres, alliterations, and other forms of wordplay. This metaphorical language enables him to tackle issues with both seriousness, like in “Au clair de la lune” condemning the military use of children, and levity, when he mocks the rumours spread by the gutter press in “Da Vinci Claude”.


Even if it has not prevented him from ruling the French rap scene since the 1990s with his inimitable style and class, Mc Solaar has been harshly criticized by the cliquie world of French urban music. Some rappers like Booba or NTM have disparaged him for not being one of the hardcore MCs who verbally bump off the “hateful” police and the “corrupted” politicians. Neither an underground rapper – not trash enough – nor a Middle of the Road artist - not commercial enough -, Mc Solaar has found his proper style during his career. He is now a sort of “ eclectic gentleman-artist”, as he treads a tightrope most rappers wouldn’t dare to traverse: the line between underground rap and poetry. In taking this risk, Mc Solaar has tried to reconcile French intellectualism with urban culture. In other words, he has made the impossible possible by deftly vaulting every barrier which makes rap music scornfully considered as a urban subculture.


In conclusion, I would like to go share with you what happened after the concert. Once the final piece had been performed, I gathered up the courage to wonder over towards the man himself to ask him when his next album would be released. I had been unsure what to expect, but I was astonished at how modest and available to his fans he actually is, as he nicely answered all of my questions. He said that his album may be released in a year’s time, and that he really enjoyed this concert in London.

So, my personal impression? MC Solaar is undoubtedly a real aesthete, a gentleman and the possessor of the class of a great man. Unique.


01/10/2010 - belinda.lovell said :

I love MC Solar - so sorry to have missed this concert.


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