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Chapter 7  Music

Most of us think of a song as entertainment, but a song can also be educational. If we listen more carefully to its lyrics we realise a song has a message to give. Many songs deal with topics such as relationships, politics, war, nature, health, education and love. Therefore, the lyrics of a song can improve your vocabulary on themes. Even though most lyrics are not written in full sentences, they are written in different tenses, such as present, past and future; they use singular and plural nouns and adjectives, and so on.

My music suggestions include French singers who are both easy to understand and beautiful to listen to. If you find it difficult to understand the lyrics, check if the CD liner notes contain the lyrics. Alternatively, with the help of an online search engine—for example,—search the title of the song you want followed by paroles (lyrics). Listen to the song while reading the lyrics, so you can make the connection between what you hear and what you see.

Chapter 2 suggests some places where you can buy French music. However, before spending your money, watch video clips and listen to music on to see if you actually like it. Read the users’ comments as well to find out what other people think about a particular singer. Such users’ comments are also a good source for learning French slang. You can also read customer reviews on or

7.1  Educational Music

In this section I list some music CDs intended primarily for education.

Le top des tout-p’tits
This is a series of CDs for French children that can also be useful for learners of French. There are songs such as Joyeux anniversaire (Happy Birthday) and many others.

Génération française 4
This is one of a CD series distributed, free-of-charge, by Le Plaisir d’Apprendre. Unfortunately, you need to be a teacher to get one of these CDs. It is worth finding a way to get it. The CD is a compilation of French music and comes with a booklet containing lyrics and exercises based on the songs. On the same website,, you can find Chansons engagées, a DVD with video clips that have the lyrics appearing on the screen at the same time with the music. All the music is modern and very good. It is ideal for learning French!

7.2  French Singers

As with French movies (Chapter 6), French music has a particular tonality that sets it apart, and the French are proud of their native artists. I mention some famous French singers and give a few examples of their songs and albums.

Originally from Cyprus, Diam’s became the Queen of Rap in France. She is also known for her political activism, which comes out in her lyrics. For example, she openly expresses her political views against the current French president, Nicolas Sarkozy; an example is the song Ma France à moi from her Dans la bulle album.

Grand Corps Malade
Grand Corps Malade specialises in slam, which is poetry recited over background music. He made his debut with the Midi 20 album in 2006. He sings, using a lot of slang, about many topics, but especially about life in ghettos.

With a style similar to Britney Spears and Christina Aquilera, Alizée became famous in 2000 with her hit single Moi… Lolita from her debut album, Gourmandises.

Chimène Badi
This young voice sings beautifully and clearly in easy-to-understand language. I recommend her Entre nous album.

Florent Pagny
Pagny sings about life in general in songs such as Ailleurs Land and Ma Liberté de penser (both from his Ailleurs Land album).

Hélène Ségara
This singer is well known in France and abroad with her albums Coeur de verre and Au nom d’une femme. Some say her music ressembles that of Canadian singer Céline Dion.

Christophe Willem
Willem becomes famous with the song Double je (from his debut album, Inventaire) in 2007. The video clip shows the singer participating in a group therapy, to express his dual personality. You can watch this video clip on

Jean-Jacques Goldman
This singer has remained successful across several decades. His classic En Passant album came out in 1997, and is still popular today.

Vanessa Paradis
Vanessa Paradis, an actress and singer, is married to Johnny Depp. One of her famous early songs is Joe le taxi from her debut album, M&J.

Francis Cabrel
The album Fragile has both melancholic and upbeat songs worth listening to.

Nana Mouskouri
Greek of origin, she sings like an angel in many languages. I recommend you get her “best-of” compilation album in French. Je chante avec toi Liberté is a beautiful freedom song.

Patrick Bruel
This pop singer is famous in France and abroad. One of his great albums is Alors Regarde.

Edith Piaf
She is the diva who is famous for singing La vie en rose. I recommend you get her “best-of” compilation album. I also suggest you watch the 2007 movie La Môme (known as La vie en rose in England) about her life.

La Séléction du Club
This is a series of compilation CDs containing French music that has survived the passing of time.

7.3  African-French Singers

France had many colonies in Africa, and therefore there is a strong African community in France that has enriched French music culture.

MC Solaar
Mc Solaar is a Senegalese French rap singer. You can learn a lot of French slang language while listening to his music. A good CD to start with is Mach 6.

Faf Larage
Another excellent rap singer is Faf Larage. His Rap Stories album contains Pas le temps, which was used on the soundtrack of the Prison Break television series in France.

Yannick Noah
This former world-champion tennis player became famous in the early 90’s with his single Saga Africa. He sings about the human race, about fighting against poverty, and so on. He also sings about his African roots—he has a Cameroonian father and a French mother—and had hits with many songs including Métisse(s) and Simon Papa Tara. I highly recommend all his albums because his music is full of wonderful African beats. If you get the chance to see him in a concert, then do not pass up the opportunity.

Angélique Kidjo
Originally from Benin, she enchanted the whole world with her fusion of different musical styles. She sings in French, English, Fon (her native language), and Yoruba (another language of Benin). All her albums are equally of high quality. One powerful song—written in French—from her Black Ivory Soul album is Ne cédez jamais. It encourages you to not be ashamed to be different and to never stop resisting those who want to control you.

Salif Keita
With an enchanting voice from Mali, he makes you dream of colourful Africa. One of his songs, Madan, was turned into a parody called Zidane y va marquer during the 2006 World Cup. You can watch it on

A second-generation Algerian in France, many of his songs are about his parents’ country. Songs like Mon pays, Tellement je t’aime, and Je veux vivre are wonderfully powerful. I recommend you get his “best-of” album.

Magic System
This group, originally from the Ivory Coast, sing Zouglou. One of their famous albums is Cessa kié la vérité, and they are well known in discos with songs like Bouger Bouger and Petit Pompier.

Ismaël Lô
This singer with an amazing voice from Senegal touched French hearts with his song L’amour à tous les droits from the Jammu Africa album.

Daara J
This group from Senegal sing a beautiful mixture of hip-hop, rap and ragga. Amongst their greatest songs in French are Esperanza and Exodus from the Boomerang album.

Amadou & Mariam
This talented blind couple, originally from Mali, reached fame in France in 2005 with their album Dimanche à Bamako, which contained the hit single Beaux Dimanches.

Alpha Blondy
He comes from the Ivory Coast, and is internationally famous for African singing. Since the death of Bob Marley, Blondy was named the reggae king. His album Masada is full of great songs, such as Multipartisme and Ça me fait si mal. His songs reflect his political views, and like many other singers, he writes songs about the current French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. You can find the song J’aime pas ta gueule on

Tiken Jah Fakoly
Originally from the Ivory Coast, he sings politically charged songs, such as Y’en a marre and Le pays va mal (Francafrique album).

He is a militant reggae singer from Burkina Faso. You can find the song Un Hongrois chez les Gaulois (known also as Nicolas Sarkozy, pourquoi ton père a fui la Hongrie?) on In this song, Zêdess denounces the immigration politics of the French president by asking him a straightforward question. Find Un Hongrois chez les Gaulois on his album entitled Sagesse Africaine.

Rokia Traoré
Originally from Mali, this singer mixes African and European beats, and the result is really good. Written in French, the song Château de sable, on the album Wanita, uses simple language to describe her childhood in Africa.

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