French music in Dubai

French-Canadian duo MAM are bringing their accordion-inspired sounds to town


Chanelle Tourish meets French-Canadian duo MAM, who bring their folksy, accordion-inspired sounds to town thanks to Alliance Française

When you dissect the music scene in Dubai, there is no denying that one keyword is variety. On an average night you can find everything from classic rock, reggae and dancehall to hip-hop and electro. While we may be used to seeing headline acts such as Kings of Leon on the main stage, there are many worthy things to be said about the smaller, more intimate gigs.

While the accordion and violin may not be on your essential listening list, French duo MAM’s brand of folk-style jazz and ethnic beats may represent a decent alternative to a night out when they play at the Sofitel Jumeirah Beach Resort on June 3.

MAM are made up of Viviane Arnoux from France and Canadian Francois Michaud. Since first meeting in France back in 1992, the pair have produced seven albums and toured across Canada at folk music festivals. Now in their late forties and early fifties respectively, the couple are known in their home country for their improvisational style of music.

The pair started playing together when Francois was looking for a new accordion player to join him for a concert. He was teaching in a jazz school in Paris at the time and was introduced to Viviane through colleagues. When Viviane politely told him she wouldn’t be able to perform as she was holidaying in a small town in Brittany, Francois was thrilled at the coincidence. ‘It was like destiny. The concert was in the same town that Viviane was going on vacation to.’

The rest they say is history. Now the duo record and play together but they delight in performing with fellow musicians from various backgrounds. Audiences in Dubai will witness a full acoustic set featuring the accordion, violin and live vocals. The show centres on the history of the accordion beginning from 1829 and maps its journey through the ages throughout Europe, Africa and North and South America. From an upbeat tango and samba from Brazil to lively Irish beats and modern compositions-there is something for all to enjoy.

‘It’s a fun show with emotion and it is truly interesting for people who want to have a good time. The accordion is not something that is played a lot in the emirates. We don’t just want to play for those who are musical; it’s a concert for everyone,’ explains Francois.

Francois was born in Quebec, Canada and studied at several musical conservatoires, while Viviane grew up in Montbeliard in France before moving to Paris to study at a jazz school. ‘Both of us come from musical backgrounds. Our families all play instruments, Viviane’s grandfather was an accordion player and her mother was a singer. My mother was a pianist and I have six brothers who all play music too, from the cello to the guitar. So we both started playing from an early age. We always had an interest in music and of course playing for an audience is exciting. It’s important to express yourself – to play music for people and it’s just the way we live,’ says Francois.

Refusing to pigeonhole themselves, MAM have recorded with musicians from around the world from duet to quintet-cello, percussion and drums. The pair’s last album in 2011, Paris Village, is a throwback to their very first album as a duo. The 20 original and relatively short compositions that make up the album was recorded at their home in the village of Ercuis, not far from Paris. While MAM’s music has encompassed jazz, musette, world music, classical, and modern grooves, Paris Village consists of highly lyrical and evocative compositions.

A modern day Von Trapp family – travelling is an ‘art de vivre’ for the couple. Next up, they are set to travel to South America to perform and are releasing a new CD album Jazz in my Musette. With their mix of two-parts exemplary musicianship and one part romance, it’s clear the duo want to share their music across the world.
Tickets Dhs90, Tuesday June 3 8pm. Sofitel Jumeirah Beach Resort, The Walk, JBR (04 335 8712).

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