Parisian pupils move to Motown

24th March 2006 at 00:00

With a great burst of energy, the acclaimed jazz trumpeter Abram Wilson kicked off a week of rehearsals of 160 young musicians and singers for next week's Banlieues Bleues, or Suburbs Blues. The songs took up many of the issues faced by young French immigrants in the outer urban areas hit by riots in November.

Mr Wilson and British saxophonist Denys Baptiste, both members of the award-winning Jazz Jamaica band, worked with pupils from five coll ges, (lower secondaries) and community groups in disadvantaged Paris suburbs to produce the show of Motown music under the Marvin Gaye song title "What's Goin' On?" Jazz Jamaica will also give a concert on April 1.

Mr Wilson wrote the arrangements for the student choir and percussion group, the adult big band and slameurs (rappers).

Kouthair Baccouche and Farid Hamzi, two 25-year-old slameurs, Bobigny residents and community workers, wrote lyrics as they soaked up the music in rehearsals.

Mr Baccouche said France may be the land of liberty, equality and fraternity, but for some young people it is one of "unemployment, debt and precariousness".

After four hours non-stop at the Music Conservatoire in Bobigny, a suburb north-east of Paris, Mr Wilson said: "It was an incredible, musically satisfying experience." Everyone had done their homework, so all he had to do was put the "finishing touches" to the group's two concerts, tomorrow and on April 2.

His enthusiasm was contagious. "He transmits his energy and makes us want to try harder," said Giselle Isaka, a 19-year-old singer in her final year of lycee or upper secondary school.

Ange Fandoh, who runs the choral workshop for the show, said: "My name means 'angel' and I certainly grew wings during the rehearsal."

Banlieues Bleues is the biggest project Mr Wilson has undertaken with Tomorrow's Warriors, a UK non-profit organisation set up in 1992 by Jazz Warriors' double-bassist Gary Crosby to develop young jazz musicians. Their next stop is Armenia, adding further to the impressive list of countries they have already toured, including Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Poland, Greece and the UK.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today