Voted `Biggest Belgian ever` by the French-speaking community in 2005, singer Jacques Brel is one of the best examples of the export success of Belgian music. Brel, who died in 1978, was one of the very few Belgians who proved able to be successful in both Flanders and Wallony, recording songs in both Flemish and French. Only a handful of others after him managed to break through the language barrier to become successful in all of Belgium.
Most of Belgium`s productions that become successful abroad are either English-language rock from Flanders or French-language songs from Wallony. In much the same way, Flanders may listen to music imported from the Netherlands, while Wallony is oriented on the French music market. Overlappings are fairly rare: Dutch bands are unknown in Wallony. French singers may make it to Flanders, but in that case they will either be classics or artists that are internationally recognised anyway.
..lists the random names of popular Wallon bands
For successful Belgian bands, the road towards international recognition usually leads via The Netherlands for Flemish musicians and via France for artists from Wallony. Johnny Halliday is such an example for France, Helmut Lotti for The Netherlands. With the exception of Axelle Red (Flemish, often performing in French) and Arno (also Flemish, performing mostly in French and English), there is a marked distinction between which bands are known in which part of the country. What applies to music also applies to many other artistic expressions, media, political parties, television and shop chains. Media from North to South in many cases only passes the language border by traveling internationally and incidentally landing at the other side of the country.
I am starting my day in French-speaking Namur, where Val?rie (22, photo) is informing about local bands from Wallony. Every Wallon city has some of its own bands, that may even sing in their own dialect. The general likeness is produced by the integration of humour and everyday life in songs that may treat subjects like going to the supermarket, leaving for holidays in Torremolinos, visits to the doctor, excursions to the North-Sea beach, spending time in traffic jams?. Band names as Sttellla, Gauf` au Suc (Sugar Waffles), Ti Tchapies, Le Grand Jojo are just some examples of bands that used this comical, self-ironical and unpretentious style of music.
Flanders is also a big fan of comedy combined with music, but they mix the two in a different way. Rather than party-songs, individual artists write society-critical songs. In the recent past, comedian Urbanus used his quasi-innocent style to produce some sexually ambiguous songs.
While humouristic music is limited to the respective language territories, possibly including France and The Netherlands on either side, some Flemish rock bands are very successful abroad. The fact that they are Belgian risks to be overlooked, because they all perform in English. Peter (21) mentions names like K`s Choice, Deus, Ozark Henry, Novastar, who have all been successful beyond the Belgian borders. Bands from Wallony have only recently started to discover singing in English as an entrance door to the outside world.
Other bands, like the Flemish Kreuners (Squeekers) prefer to serve the audience in their own language. They have been producing Britpop-like rock songs in Flemish. Clouseau also record songs in Dutch, mostly of the sweet-soft kind. On neither side of the language border, until now, musicians are using the political crisis as a source of inspiration, or subject, for their songs. Jacques Brel made one song about Flanders a long time ago, but otherwise one of the few songs that have Belgium for a subject is the song Belgi? by the Dutch band `Het Goede Doel`, dating from the early 1980s. It describes Belgium as the best place on earth: click here to listen to the song.
Music in Belgium is not specifically subsidised, but according to Mara (22) musicians have access to a variety of stages, small festivals and big festivals for musicians to put themselves at display. Radio stations like Studio Brussel in Flanders, PurFM in Wallony dedicate special programs to new bands in all sorts of different styles. They are can also be listened by internet via www.studiobrussel.be (click on Luister live and www.purfm.be (click on PureFM en Direct). Enjoy!
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