mardi 15 mai 2012

57th Eurovision Song Contest
Baku, Azerbaijan
Song reviews

- Albania – Rona Nishliu – Suus (Personal)

Mark: 13/20
A very powerful ballad, supported by very powerful and melancholy lyrics. It is regrettable that Nishliu feels the need to scream our heads and our ears away, because it somehow annuls the emotional power of her otherwise flawless performance.

- Austria – Trackshittaz – Woki Mit Deim Popo (Untranslatable)

Mark: 6/20
If North Korean secret services wanted their prisonners to suffer, "Woki mit deim popo" would be the preferred method of torture. An insufferable melody, sung in an insufferable German dialect. Not to mention the inane lyrics. Beside the arguably convincing performance, an utterly horrible entry… Wait, is that your booty irresistibly shaking? That's the intended effect.

- Azerbaijan – Sabina Babayeva – When the Music Dies

I thought that Azerbaijan, having finally won, would stop hiring Swedish producers to send songs to the ESC. I was wrong. Apparently they don't think that a local ethnic entry would be a good idea when they're hosting the bloody contest and are guaranteed a place in the final anyway! Instead, they send us an obviously well produced entry – it's Swedish! – but with no redeeming features. A bit like "Running Scared", arguably one of the worst winners since the end of the language rule. Meh, Azerbaijan.

- Bosnia & Herzegovina – Maya Sar – Korake Ti Znam (I know your moves)

Mark: 13/20
With the Balkan-ballad spam that we are presented this year by Serbia, Croatia, Albania and Macedonia, there are bound to be disappointed contestants. It sounds like all the others, and may or may not qualify. I don't care really.

- Belgium – Iris – Would You?

Mark: 10/20
Although she is cute, Iris will not stand against the competition with such a bland song. Belgium needs to send entries packing some punch if it wants to have a shot at reaching the finals. Unsurprisingly, a 16-year old rookie does not fill that role properly. I expected much more from the VRT. Bring back Kate Ryan! There, I said it. Haha!

- Bulgaria – Sofi Marinova – Love Unlimited

Mark: 13/20
Granted, this is the same tired Balkan sound that Inna, Alexandra Stan and the other Balkan kurvas have served us for years. However, I usually cannot resist multilingual entries and this is no exception.

- Belarus – Litesound – We are the heroes

Mark: 11/20
I prefer it when Belarus sends utterly scandalous entries such as last year's I love Belarus. This is actually pretty good for a country that has served us Butterflies in 2010. But it's rock, so I really don't care.

- Switzerland – Sinplus – Unbreakable

Mark: 11/20
It's rock. I can't judge, except that the singer's English pronunciation is awful. "Zwim agains ze strim".

- Cyprus – Ivi Adamou – La La Love

Mark: 14/20
Cheeky fun! This, like Romania and Greece, just makes you want to dance like a hectic slut on the dancefloor. Just enjoy the music – and the great video clip – and vote for Cyprus! They deserve to win, for once!

- Germany – Roman Lobb – Standing Still

Mark: 13/20
Roman is your typical "Idol" or "The Voice" winner. He's kind of cute, his voice is kind of good, his song is kind of nice. And this is kind of not my cup of tea. Boring. Sorry Germany, Lena-mania won't transform in Roman-mania.

- Denmark – Soluna Samay – Should've Known Better

Mark: 12/20
Denmark specialises in songs that will appeal to everyone. In my mind, that means songs with no real qualities except a relatively good singer backed by great production. Soluna Samay is cute and charming, but her song is so bland! Boring is – yet again – the word to describe it.

- Estonia – Ott Lepland – Kuula (Listen)

Mark: 10/20
Estonia is usually the only Baltic country whose song is listenable. In 2012, the competition is even weaker than usual. Even then, it is a pretty unremarkable song.

- Spain – Pastora Soler – Quédate Conmigo (Stay With Me)

Mark: 16/20
Spain has upped its game considerably this year. After the pretty average entries of the last two years, Pastora Soler's "Quédate conmigo" qualifies Spain as one of this year's favourites. A powerful voice, beautiful lyrics and a performance that will surely enchant the Contest's juries. It's still a ballad among many ballads though, and Spain may not place very high.

- Finland – Pernilla Karlsson – När Jag Blundar (When I Close My Eyes)

Mark: 16/20
I am a real sucker for these kinds of entries. They relax me, and who cannot find the Swedish language enchanting? Since this is the first time that Swedish is sung at the Contest since the end of the language rule, this alone deserves my vote. In addition, this reminds me of other ethnic entries that received my vote in previous contests, for instance Estonia in 2009 or Slovakia in 2010. I wish her all the best.

- France – Anggun – Echo (You And I)

Mark: 14/20
Anggun is so elegant. Her voice has so much character. Her song is so… disappointing. Okay, it's not bad, but it sounds like a B-side from Mylène Farmer's latest album. I had high hopes for her, and I'm giving her a high mark because the production is still great, but she's not bringing back the trophy to Paris. Sorry Simon!

- United Kingdom – Engelbert Humberdinck – Love Will Set You Free

Mark: 14/20
The BBC's choice has rarely been more controversial than this year. It is true that sending a 75 year old has-been to a Contest dominated by twenty-somethings does raise a few eyebrows. But Engelbert Humperdinck is undeniably talented, a charismatic and soothing performance among a sea of dodgy contestants. I confess: I laughed hard when I first heard that Humperdinck would represent the UK. Now, I admit he's a pretty good contestant, but his outdated song risks a big flop.

- Greece – Eleftheria Eleftheriou – Aphrodisiac

Mark: 15/20
Greece is back to the basics that made it so succesful in 2005 (Paparizou's victory) and 2008 (Kalomira's third place): ethnic slut pop! Eleftheria is pure awesome. I mean: she walks on her gorgeous male dansers! What's not to love? Greece may be in an economic crisis, but its sluts will always be there to save the day.

- Georgia – Anri Jokhadze – I'm a joker

Mark: 1/20
Here we are. The worst entry of this year's contest. By far. Even by the standards of the Eurovision Song Contest, which are, I admit, not very high, this is three minutes of uninterrupted crap. Please stop it from reaching the finals!

- Croatia – Nina Badric – Nebo (Heaven)

Mark: 13/20
Classy and powerful, "Nebo" is one of the best in this year's Balkan ballad spam. I am very happy to see that the Balkan countries have stopped succombing to the Anglovision Song Contest and are finally sending entries in local languages again.

- Hungary – Compact Disco – Sound of Our Hearts

Mark: 11/20
Placebo or Linkin Park wannabe. It isn't bad, but it lacks a little je ne sais quoi. And after the sheer Shlagertastic entry of last year (Kati Wolf's What about my love), it's difficult not to be disappointed.

- Ireland – Jedward – Waterline

Mark: 12/20
The epileptic twins are back, for our greatest (dis)pleasure. In their defence, I think that their 2012 is much better than this "Lipstick" disgrace, which gave me murder urges. Still, Jedward are so massively overhyped by the Anglo-Saxon press that I hope they will flop massively to teach them a lesson… like stop wearing this ridiculous hairstyle: Marie Antoinette is so 18th century!

- Iceland – Gréta and Jonsi – Never Forget

Mark: 16/20
A very engaging song served by the powerful voices of Gréta Salome and Jonsi. It truly emerges from the rest and may benefit from its unique sound. I certainly wish that this reach the top 10.

- Israel – Izabo – Time

Mark: 12/20
The Israeli broadcaster really doesn't want to win, and it shows. I just don't get this song. Maybe I'm missing something?

- Italy – Nina Zilli – L'Amore è Femmina (Out of Love)           

Mark: 17/20
Oh Italy! Why did you leave the Contest for so long? Even though I cannot fathom how "Madness of Love" ended up second last year, there is no challenging the fact that Italy brings back class and quality to the Eurovision Song Contest. This song has amazing lyrics (unfortunately destroyed by a completely superfluous English translation in the final version), an outstanding voice and a probably great performance. One of the best entries this year, no question.

- Lithuania – Donny Montell – Love is Blind

Mark: 7/20
The performance is ridiculous. The song is an utter disaster. I'm listening to it, thinking: "have I accidentaly asked Siri to find me a crappy one-hit-wonder of the late Nineties?"

- San Marino – Valentina Monetta – The Social Network Song Uh Uh Oh

Mark: 8/20
No style, no melody, inane lyrics. Good job San Marino, didn't expect that from you! But beware, competition from Latvia and Russia is on the way!

- Latvia – Anmary – Beautiful Song

Mark: 12/20
The lyrics are cringeworthy but Anmary has proven that she doesn't take them too seriously. The final version has been rearranged and has become one of my guilty pleasures. This is the best joke entry this year. At least that deserves some kind of recognition? No?

- Moldova – Pasha Parfeny - Lautar

Mark: 13/20
A very typical sound in the proud continuation of Ovo je Balkan and Hora Din Moldova.

- FYR Macedonia – Kaliopi – Crno i belo (Black and White)

Mark: 12/20
Not bad. Kaliopi's probably the only talent that Macedonia will ever be able to send to the ESC, because when you see what they usually send, you consider "Crno i belo" a gift from God.

- Malta – Kurt Calleja – This Is The Night

Mark: 10/20
You thought that "Tonight's gonna be a good night" was a long gone memory. Think again: here's Malta and the insufferable beat of "This is the night". No doubt the (straight) European audience will love it. I don't. Bring back Chiara!

- Montenegro – Rambo Amadeus – Euro Neuro

Mark: 5/20
Your typical joke entry, by a popular Balkan artist. At first you think that his lyrics are going to provide intelligent and insightful criticism about the European crisis, but it ends only being pointless gibberish. It would have enjoyed my sympathy vote otherwise. Sorry Rambo.

- Netherlands – Joan – You And Me

Mark: 12/20
A cute song, and an undeniably talented singer. It rides the wave of calm and cute songs that score pretty well at the contest (like Belgium in 2010, or Finland in 2011). Those are not my cup of tea at all, but one can only feel compassion for the Netherlands: they haven't participated in the final since 2004. I wish them good luck.

- Norway – Tooji – Stay

Mark: 15/20
Once you get past the irresistible urge to compare Tooji to Eric Saade (Sweden 2011), "Stay" becomes an utterly delightful piece of dance music. The oriental influences and Tooji's amazing dance moves will gather the admiration and votes of many gay men across Europe. It already belongs in the playlist of songs that I will listen to long after the Baku contest has passed.

- Portugal – Filipa Sousa – Vida Minha (This life of mine)

Mark: 13/20
Usually, Portugal outclasses Spain in classiness and elegance. This time, with the outstanding Pastora Soler representing the big Iberian neighbour, diva Filipa Sousa's shine has been stolen. It is a nevertheless powerful song in typical Fado style, one which really brings a different flavour to a contest otherwise dominated by sugarcoated pop and Disney ballads.

- Romania – Mandinga – Zaleilah

Mark: 16/20
The sun is shining, you want to dance and have some fun. What song are you going to put on your iPod playlist? "Zaleilah" of course! Sure, you could say Mandinga is a mere Inna-clone and that her song doesn't differ in the slightest from the whore pop the South-Eastern countries produce since Inna and Alexandra Stan. Nevertheless, this is an absolutely irresistible song. Just dance and enjoy!

- Serbia – Zelko Joksimovic – Nije Ljubav Stvar (Love isn't a thing)

Mark: 14/20
Joksimovic is a Eurovision heavyweight. He competed twice, in 2004 and 2006, and each time he finished in the top 5. His beautiful and typically Balkanic melodies fit the Contest's spirit perfectly, and I expect "Nije Ljubav Stvar" to be no different. One of the strongest contenders to win this year's contest.

- Russia – Buranovskiye Babushki – Party for Everybody

Mark: 13/20
At first, you think: "oh, for goodness' sake Russia…" Then the sheer cuteness of these Grannies singing on cheap and repetitive dance beats will overwhelm you. You won't resist.

- Sweden – Loreen – Euphoria

Mark: 17/20
Undeniably this Contest's most amazing entry. A breathtaking performance, a perfectly well-produced song and the potential to appeal to all audiences. Euphoria can and should give Sweden its well-deserved fifth victory, and undoubtedly one of my favourite songs this year.

- Slovenia – Eva Boto – Verjamem (I believe)

Mark: 14/20
A beautiful, Molitva-like song. Ethnic, atmospheric, lyrical. Her voice is superb, and her performance will no doubt be majestic. A bit sceptic about the "ah ah ah" backing voices though: did a cloud throw up on their heads?

- Slovakia – Max Jason Mai – Don't close your eyes

Mark: 9/20
Comment: Noise. Awful, unbearable noise! But that's only my opinion.

- Turkey – Can Bonomo – Love me back

Mark: 11/20
Apart from the Turkish broadcaster's pathological aversion for women and pop music, I am quite relieved that TRT decided to stop sending crappy rock bands to the Contest. Can Bonomo is like a Turkish Charlie Winston: cute and impossible to dislike. The song, on the other hand, is a mish-mash that never seems to produce anything else than confusion in the listener's ears. Negative points for obstinately refusing to send a song in Turkish!

- Ukraine – Gaitana – Be My Guest

Mark: 12/20
Soviet Beyoncé is bootylicious. Unfortunately, her song is probably the most disappointing entry from an undeniably great Eurovision country. I was so rooting for Max Barksih at the national final that I cannot refrain my dislike for this entry. Nevertheless, I hope she does not confirm the adage that black people don't perform well at the Contest. Good luck Gaitana!

dimanche 10 juillet 2011

In Flanders

Seven hundred and nine years ago, on 11 July 1302, there was a battle called "the Battle of the Golden Spurs". The Flemish know it as Guldensporenslag, and the Belgians who speak French as la Bataille des éperons d'or.

On that day, a French army led by Robert II of Artois was defeated by Flemish militiamen, after a long period during which the County of Flanders, a part of the French kingdom, proved rebellious and prone to unrest. Not long before, the Bruges Matins saw the citizens of the old city identify Frenchmen by asking them to pronounce a Flemish phrase: "schilt ende vriend" (shield and friend). If they couldn't pronounce it correctly, they were killed. This prompted French retaliation leading to the battle, not far from Courtrai.

Today, the Flemish Community of Belgium – which encompasses not only Flanders but also the historical provinces of Brabant and Limburg – celebrates this day as its official holiday, most notably under the influence of Hendrik Conscience's novel De Leeuw van Vlaanderen (the Lion of Flanders). Conscience, who is widely seen as the spiritual father of the Flemish movement, is the son of a Frenchman, Pierre Conscience from Besançon. When the Belgian Revolution erupted, in 1830, Conscience served with the newly formed Belgian army and encountered many peasants whose dialect, Flemish, was despised by the elite and the bourgeoisie, who spoke French. Looking towards the Netherlands, where a rich and respected language closely related to Flemish had bloomed, Dutch, Conscience wanted to adress the people directly, in their own language. He was all the more compelled to do so when he saw Belgium profile itself as a bourgeois and exclusively Francophone state. Hendrik Conscience went on to write much poetry and many novels in Flemish, an enterprise which was encouraged by Leopold I, King of the Belgians.

As was mentioned above, Conscience is considered to be one of the forefathers of the Flemish movement. This idealistic movement grew in size and scope throughout the 19th and especially the 20th century, and sought to defend the cultural identity of Flanders. This materialised overwhelmingly through the languages spoken by the lower classes: Flemish. Flemish is an umbrella term for the numerous dialects spoken in Flanders. The most distinctive of those dialects is West-Vlaams, a variant heavily influenced by French and spoken in the historical County of Flanders (Courtrai, Bruges, the Belgian coast). In the 19th century, officials of the nascent Flemish movement were faced with a grave dilemma: to stand up to French, the Flemish people needed a unified, standardised language. After much debate between those who wished for a standard Flemish language – independent from Dutch – and those who favoured language proximity with the North, the 1841 Taalcongres (Language Convention) of Ghent decided on the second option. Newspapers and novelists rapidly complied with the rules laid out by the Taalcongres and the linguistic unity of Flanders began to form under the spelling of Jan Frans Willems.

Slowly, the Flemish movement gained some ground. In 1898, in the Gelijkheidswet (Equality law), Dutch was recognised as equal to French in legal documents. During the First World War, according the so-called Flamenpolitik, the German occupier sought to exacerbate the animosity between Flemings and Walloons by using the Flemish movement to its advantage. It is in that context that Ghent University, then totally Francophone like every university in the country, was made Dutch-speaking. But this collaboration would prove poisonous to the credibility of the Flemish movement, lending credence to the idea that Flemish emancipation was equal to treason against the Belgian state. Ghent would only become a Dutch-speaking university again in 1930, amid rising demands on the part of an increasingly literate and urbanised Flemish population.

After World War Two, the drive for cultural autonomy became a determining force in Flanders, suffusing the political landscape in conflicts that would emphasise the differences between the French-speaking part and the Dutch-speaking part of the country: the Question royale about King Leopold III's return, or the School War – opposing Catholic Flanders to liberal Wallonia – all put pressure on the unitary Belgian state. La Belgique de Papa, Father's Belgium, as a prominent Belgian politican would later put it, was coming to an end. Concurrent to Flemish calls for cultural autonomy – no argument was made about economical separation – Wallonia started to experience a significant downturn of its once rich coal mining industry. This led Walloon politicians to call for economical autonomy, which was felt necessary to adress challenges specific to Wallonia. At that point, both parts of the country wanted to tear Father's Belgium apart, for very different reasons.

The following decades would see one reform after another transform Belgium into an almost impossibly complex collection of overlapping governments and competences. It has also seen Flanders and the Flemish people develop a very strong idea of selfhood, under the influence of historical Flemish writers like Conscience and concurrently to the much more recent bloom of an exclusively Flemish jet set. The latter was popularised by the rise of private television channel VTM (Vlaamse Televisiemaatschappij) in the Eighties, whose market share quickly grew to the point that, where almost all Flemings watched Dutch television in 1970, the same overwhelming majority switched loyalty to Flemish television at the onset of the Nineties' decade. Today, Flemish tabloids and newspapers talk about exclusively Flemish famous people and stars. In a country where politics has always been a number one concern, the whole of Flanders would debate passionately about the news of extreme-right figurehead Marie-Rose Morel's death to cancer, or laugh at separatist party leader Bart De Wever's latest clever one-liner.

In contrast, Francophone Belgium remains an integral and non-autonomous part of French culture. Belgian artists gain recognition only if they 'move to Paris' (monter à Paris), an idomatic expression denoting a quest for success in the French cultural world. Actors such as Yolande Moreau or Benoît Poelvoorde only gained international – and even local – acclaim after they had moved to France, the same holds true for singer Jacques Brel or flamboyant novelist Amélie Nothomb. The lack of a typically Walloon culture contrasts heavily with Flemish culture, which has grown completely detached of all of its neighbours in the course of a few decades. The only instances in which Belgian artists appeal to both Flemings and Francophones is when they sing in English, a regrettable– if inevitable – development.

And then, there is the number one issue. The main cause of the quagmire from which Belgium seeks to recover: Brussels.

The capital of Belgium is conveniently located at the heart of the country. It lies in the historical province of Brabant, which had been the home of both Germanic and Latin peoples since the Roman era. When the Burgundian Dukes established their dominion on the Low Countries, they elected Brussels as their capital. From the 15th century onwards, Brussels would never cease to be an important centre of administration and power. The local inhabitants spoke a Brabantian dialect, Brusseleer, a Germanic variant peppered with numerous French words. In the course of the centuries, Brussels would become increasingly French-speaking, replacing not standard Dutch – as some would believe – but a local dialect already strongly indebted to French.

In the second half of the 20th century, the standardisation process of the Dutch language in Flanders stopped the progress of French in all but the outskirts of Brussels. This so-called olievlek (oil spill) is the source of much anxieties in Flemish nationalist circles. Indeed, the suburbs of Brussels are – by law – geographically located in Flanders (the political entity of course, because Brussels is actually located in Brabant). But they are – much like the city they are socio-economically linked to – multilingual and in some municipalities, overwhelmingly French-speaking. This clashes with a deeply flawed idea that has slowly made its way into the conscience of the Flemish movement: that Flanders is monolingual. Regardless of all historical – Hendrik Conscience himself was bilingual – and demographical – a lot of Flemings speak three or four languages, among which French – evidence to the contrary, the official political line is that all of Flanders speaks exclusively Dutch. This inflexible line of thinking fuels the equally flawed objective by the Flemish government to ultimately administer municipalities that are bilingual, like Brussels, as if they were monolingual.

Today is the official holiday of the Flemish Community of Belgium. A Community that officially considers Brussels its capital. In Brussels, many people speak Dutch. Many people speak Turkish. Many people speak Arabic, Spanish, Bulgarian or Greek. But the lingua franca of Brussels is French. And although some Flemish politicians have managed to impose the view that Flanders is monolingual, with the exception being their own capital, this schizophrenic and distorted view of reality holds no water under the light of history. For much of the Second Millenium, the County of Flanders was a bilingual territory administered by France – Lille never spoke a Germanic dialect, but it's in Flanders –, and Limburg was under the authority of the Archbishopric of Liège. Brabant was also bilingual from the onset, because the infamous taalgrens (language border) cuts it in half since Roman times, and that border hasn't moved since.

It is time to open our eyes, and realise how beautiful and rich our country is. We have to realise that it has always been at the crossroads of the Latin and Germanic cultures, and that the one is not superior to the other. Nor that one threatens the other with extinction.

They say Belgium is a travesty. I say that eendracht maakt macht. I say that l'union fait la force. I say that in unity, there is strength.

mercredi 21 avril 2010


‘BHV, BHV !’ me susurrent chaque jour les sirènes de la télévision et des médias belges. Difficile de résister à l’envie d’en faire un article, malgré la quantité astronomique d’encre (réelle ou virtuelle) qui a été versée à ce sujet. Mais bon, ‘le meilleur moyen de résister à la tentation est d’y céder’, n’est-ce pas ?

Bruxelles-Hal-Vilvorde, c’est le nom communément donné par les médias à l’arrondissement électoral et judiciaire du même nom, qui inclut la capitale et sa périphérie. Il est l’une des dernières anomalies dans le système fédéral belge, dans lequel trois communautés linguistiques théoriquement unilingues se superposent en de nombreux endroits. La plupart de ces zones de juxtaposition ne posent pas, ou plus, de problèmes. Ce sont les communes germanophones (pourvues de facilités pour les francophones), les communes à facilités wallonnes pour les néerlandophones, les communes à facilités flamandes pour les francophones, ou encore la Région de Bruxelles-Capitale et ses dix-neuf communes bilingues.

Seul BHV pose encore problème. Pourquoi ?

Lors de la délimitation des arrondissements électoraux, on a décidé de prendre le contour des provinces. Sauf pour le Brabant flamand, qui est scindé entre l’arrondissement de Leuven et celui de BHV. Par conséquent, les électeurs francophones établis dans le territoire flamand et unilingue de la périphérie bruxelloise peuvent voter pour des partis francophones aux élections fédérales et européennes. Comme il n’est pas possible pour des Flamands installés en Wallonie de voter pour des partis flamands, cette anomalie épinglée par la Cour Constitutionnelle en 2003 est perçue comme une inégalité en faveur des francophones.

Deux points de vue s’opposent donc. D’un côté, les Flamands voient comme une évidence que l’arrondissement de Bruxelles-Hal-Vilvorde doit être scindé, car il mélange la Région bruxelloise bilingue avec la Région flamande unilingue. De l’autre côté, les francophones considèrent que Bruxelles et sa périphérie forment un tout, et que la forte proportion de francophones dans les communes flamandes entourant Bruxelles doit être respectée.

À partir de ce constat de conflit, on distingue deux perceptions très différentes de la territorialité en Belgique.

Pour les Flamands, les frontières de la Flandre sont immuables et ne dépendent pas de la langue parlée sur le territoire de ses communes. C’est d’ailleurs à cette fin que la frontière linguistique fut définitivement fixée en 1963 après le boycott – anticonstitutionnel – du recensement linguistique de 1960 par les bourgmestres flamands. Par conséquent, la simple idée d’élargir la Région bruxelloise est absolument impensable et est perçue comme une invasion du territoire flamand.

Pour les francophones, l’accord scellé au début des années soixante est beaucoup moins définitif. En effet, le nombre de francophones installés dans la périphérie bruxelloise n’a de cesse d’augmenter, menant certaines communes à être peuplées d’une très large majorité de francophones. Pour ces derniers, souvent des bruxellois d’origine, il semble par conséquent logique qu’ils puissent bénéficier des mêmes avantages que dans la capitale. Le côté francophone considère donc que les frontières fixées en 1963 ne sont pas immuables, et peuvent être modifiées.

C’est sur ce désaccord fondamental que se déchirent et s’entredéchirent les deux communautés du pays depuis de nombreuses années. Les uns considèrent que la frontière est immuable, les autres pensent que la situation a changé depuis cinquante ans et qu’elle mérite une réforme.

Le citoyen lambda est souvent excédé par l’ampleur que prennent parfois les controverses autour de BHV, un sujet qui est d’apparence trivial. Mais il cache en réalité une réalité bien plus concrète, et il convient pour l’éclairer de faire un petit rappel historique.

En 1830, la Belgique acquiert son indépendance, avec la bénédiction de Londres et de Paris. Pays unitaire et monarchie constitutionnelle, son élite dirigeante est francophone, alors que le ‘Flamand’ n’est encore qu’une vaste constellation de patois épars. La capitale, Bruxelles, est une ville flamande dont la francisation (verfransing) s’accélère fortement au fur et à mesure que la population s’embourgeoise, grâce à l’expansion économique fulgurante du royaume dont elle est – naturellement – la première à bénéficier.

Un siècle plus tard, le mouvement flamand est parvenu par son dynamisme et sa pugnacité à juguler la progression du français dans la majorité de la Flandre, mais Bruxelles n’a cessé de devenir chaque année plus francophone encore. Pire, son agglomération s’agrandit aussi. Après la guerre, profitant du vent de réforme qui souffle sur l’Europe, les Flamands veulent mettre un terme à ce qu’ils appellent ‘de olievlek’ : la tache d’huile. Bruxelles sera composée de dix-neuf communes, et pas une de plus. Au fil des décennies qui suivront, les frontières linguistiques seront de plus en plus immuables tandis que les innombrables accords et négociations font de la Belgique l’un des Etats les plus complexes et les plus institutionnalisés du monde. C’est dans cette situation que BHV trouve toute sa résonance, car il est l’un des derniers éléments favorisant la tache d’huile.

Plus que BHV, c’est donc Bruxelles qui est au coeur de toute la problématique belge. Ville flamande, à quatre-vingt-cinq pourcent francophone, poumon économique du pays et capitale européenne, Bruxelles est probablement la seule raison pour laquelle la Belgique n’est pas aujourd’hui un souvenir de l’histoire. Elle apporte trop à la Flandre, qui entretient par rapport à elle une relation schizophrénique d’amour – elle donne du travail à 300 000 Flamands – et de haine – c’est là que la tache d’huile s’est formée et c’est de là qu’elle s’étend peu à peu vers le reste de la Flandre. Et elle apporte trop à la Wallonie, avec qui elle partage la langue et la culture, sans parler de la richesse du Brabant wallon, essentiellement due à l’argent ramené par des salariés travaillant à Bruxelles.

Bruxelles, c’est 25% du Produit Intérieur Brut de la Belgique, c’est 10% de sa population, et c’est une métropole qui compte plus d’ambassades et d’institutions internationales que Londres, Washington ou Paris. Et pourtant, Bruxelles c’est aussi un quart de la population en deçà du seuil de pauvreté, une mobilité lamentable et une réputation d’insécurité qui se renforce depuis les évènements de ces derniers mois.

Parmi cette avalanche de faits, une chose est sûre, la scission de BHV ne changera rien à la situation de fond. Bruxelles est exploitée de part et d’autre de la frontière linguistique, alors qu’elle est certainement la seule à pouvoir sérieusement revendiquer sa ‘belgitude’ plutôt que son identité flamande ou wallonne. Pour donner mon opinion personnelle en conclusion de cet article, j’en viens à me demander si l’insistance des Flamands à obtenir une Flandre indépendante avec Bruxelles pour capitale, et celle des Wallons à maintenir la Belgique unie n’a pas pour seul objectif de garder pour soi le coeur et l’âme de notre pays : Bruxelles.

mercredi 3 février 2010

La mentalité flamande par sa musique pop

Il est souvent intéressant de se pencher sur la musique d'une culture pour comprendre et appréhender ses subtilités. Les thèmes abordés, le ton choisi et le style de musique sont autant de choix (conscients ou non) qui sont influencés par la société qui entoure l'artiste. En Flandre, c'est une culture du 'travailler plus pour gagner plus' - pour reprendre les mots de Sarkozy - qui a régné pendant trois décennies et qui a animé les motivations de nombreux Flamands. C'est assurément le cas des chanteuses pop flamandes des années 2000. Je m'attarderai sur l'une d'entre elles, dont le succès dans le nord du pays est indéniable et lui a fait atteindre le statut tant convoité de B.V. : Bekende Vlaming. Il s'agit de Natalia (Druyts).


Connu dans le monde entier, le concept de télé-réalité adapté dans les contrées francophones sous le nom de Nouvelle Star, fait son apparition en Flandre en 2003. Idool 2003, présentée par les frères Wauters du groupe Clouseau, est diffusée sur VTM et rencontre un franc succès. Elle est particulièrement remarquable en ce qu'elle a permis à nombre de ses participants de faire une percée, petite ou grande, sur le marché flamand et européen. Parmi les éphémères, on peut citer Danzel (et sa reprise de Pump it up) ou Brahim (dont la chanson P.O.W.E.R. arrive deuxième lors de la sélection nationale pour l'Eurovision 2006).
Mais une jeune femme se démarque au fil des années, grâce à ses chansons et à son style bling-bling qui plait tant à la Flandre.


Née dans les environs de Westerlo, Natalia abandonne ses études de traductrice anglais-espagnol pour se consacrer entièrement à la chanson. C'est son arrivée sur le plateau de Idool 2003 qui la propulse sur les devants de la scène flamande. Elle perd la finale, mais ce n'est que le début de son ascension rapide vers le succès en Flandre et aux Pays-Bas. Son premier single, Without You, est suivi d'un grand succès aux paroles déjà emprunte de cette rage de vaincre qu'incarnent les B.V. auprès de leur public : I've Only Begun To Fight (2004).

Bien que la chanson ait pour thème central une femme prête à tout pour vaincre sa concurrente, il y a également dans les paroles des références à cette rage de vaincre qui anime la mentalité flamande depuis les années quatre-vingt : "more than just knowing you want it, it's knowing how bad. To keep it, you've got to be on it with all that you have."
Après une collaboration avec les Pointer Sisters, c'est en 2007 que Natalia atteint ce qui est jusqu'à ce jour le sommet de sa carrière, avec l'album Everything & More. Ce dernier reste cinq semaines au sommet du Top 40 en Flandre, et voit l'artiste collaborer avec Pink et Shaggy entre autres. C'est une fois encore un album rempli de chansons aux thèmes fortement influencés par la conception flamande du succès, avec Glamorous comme ultime exemple.

Tous les couplets sont comme un hommage à la longue marche flamande vers la richesse et l'opulence. Dans le couplet ci-dessous, le "we" fait subtilement référence à cette Flandre, qui veut être reconnue par le reste du monde : "know who I be now I'm living like a movie".

Yes yes we're glamorous
First class, rich and famous
Now it's so luxurious
Know who I be now I'm living like a movie
Yes yes we're glamorous
First class, rich and famous
Now it's so luxurious
Check on me see me living like a movie


Oui, il est assurément possible d'observer une société par le prisme de sa musique, même lorsqu'il s'agit d'artistes dits 'commerciaux'. Dans le cas de la Flandre, il s'agit de faire la part belle à la promotion du succès, à l'exaltation de la richesse et au dur labeur qui lui a précédé. Et il n'y a dans cette brève analyse aucun jugement sur cette mentalité, qui ne parle pas seulement aux Flamands, mais aussi à tous ceux qui veulent tout donner pour atteindre le sommet.

A voir aussi, dans le même registre, une autre participante flamande à Idool, Hadise et sa chanson Fast Life.

lundi 11 janvier 2010

Is the Benelux the way to go ?

Ah que ne fait-on pas lorsqu'on est insomniaque ? On délire sur l'avenir de l'Europe pardi ! ...

Is the Benelux the way to go ?

Le Benelux est-il notre porte de sortie ?

When thinking about Belgium’s institutional problems, there quickly comes a point where one falls upon a dead end. The Walloons don’t want the social security to be regionalized, the Flemish don’t want to pour anymore money in it, all this while Brussels suffers the embarassing paradox of being third richest region in the EU with an unemployment rate of more than twenty percent. There seems to be no end to the crisis, while a solution quickly needs to be found to help Belgium’s citizens get through these difficult times.

Lorsqu’il s’agit des problèmes institutionnels belges, on se trouve rapidement confronté à un mur. Les Wallons ne veulent pas que la sécurité sociale soit régionalisée, les Flamands ne veulent plus y injecter d’argent, tandis que Bruxelles s’illustre par l’embarrassant paradoxe de sa 3e position dans les régions les plus riches d’Europe et ses vingt pourcents de chômage. Il ne semble y avoir aucune fin à la crise, alors qu’une solution doit rapidement être trouvé pour permettre aux citoyens belges de traverser cette période difficile.

The Low Countries have always had a rich history of union, disunion, love and hate. From the times of the Burgundian Netherlands to today’s Netherlands, Flanders and Wallonia, this small but dynamic region of Europe has always been the focal point of Europe’s fiercest powerplay between the old and powerful countries that surround it. Belgium itself was ruled by the Spanish, the Austrians, the French and the Germans, before becoming a loose federation of Dutch- and French-speaking communities.

La région des Pays-Bas (qui inclut la Belgique) a une longue et tumultueuse histoire d’union, de désunion, d’amour et de haine. Depuis le temps des Pays-Bas Bourguignons jusqu’aux Pays-Bas, à la Flandre et à la Wallonie d’aujourd’hui, cette petite et dynamique région d’Europe a toujours été le point focal des luttes d’influence entre les puissants et anciens pays qui l’entourent. La Belgique elle-même fut à tour de rôle occupée par les Espagnols, les Autrichiens, les Français et les Allemands, avant de devenir une fédération de communautés francophone et néerlandophone.

So, here we are in 2010 and a big institutional crisis that has dragged on for decades. The answer lies maybe in an old, some would even say obsolete organization : the Benelux. Founded in 1948, well before the European initiatives of which the EU is the latest iteration, the Benelux is a loose customs union which gradually provides for greater economic freedom in the three countries that are a part of it. Since the implementation of the Common Market, the Benelux has become redundant and is essentially yet another layer of useless bureaucracy at the taxpayer’s expense.

Donc, nous voilà arrivés en 2010 avec une crise institutionnelle qui dure depuis des décennies. Et la réponse se trouve peut-être dans ce qu’on pourrait appeler une organisation obsolète : le Benelux.

Fondé en 1948, bien avant les initiatives européennes dont l’Union européenne est la dernière forme, le Benelux est une union de douanes peu contraignante qui procure une plus grande liberté économique aux trois membres qui le composent. Depuis la mise en place du Marché commun, le Benelux est devenu redondant et est une couche de bureaucratie additionnelle financée par l’argent du contribuable.

The suggestion would be to transform this useless organization into one of paramount importance, reinstating the Low Countries to their long lost unity. How ?

By creating a confederation regrouping the Netherlands, Flanders, Wallonia and Luxembourg. Belgium as an entity would disappear and its already limited powers would be taken on by the Benelux Confederation or whatever they call it.

L’idée serait de transformer cette organisation inutile en un appareil d’importance fondamentale, en réinstaurant les Pays-Bas à leur unité depuis longtemps perdue. Comment ?

En créant une confédération regroupant les Pays-Bas, la Flandre, la Wallonie et le Luxembourg. La Belgique disparaîtrait en tant qu’entité et ses compétences seraient transférées au nouveau gouvernement confédéral.

A Constitution, submitted to a referendum of all the citizens of the Benelux, shall define the framework of the Confederation.

Une Constitution, soumise à un référundum de tous les citoyens du Benelux, définira la structure de la Confédération.

The legislative system would function much like that of the United States, with a House of Representatives elected according to population and a Senate equally divided between the member states. That would ensure that democracy is respected while ensuring that each member is set on an equal foot with the other. The laws enacted by the member states would be of same level as those voted by the Confederation, like the federal system of Belgium works today.

Le système législatif fonctionnerait à l’image du Congrès des Etats-Unis, avec une Chambre élue en rapport avec la population et un Sénat divisé également entre les quatre Etats membres. Cela assurerait un fonctionnement démocratique tout en mettant tous les membres sur un pied d’égalité. Les lois édictées par les Etats membres auraient la même valeur que celles votées par la Confédération, ce qui ressemblerait au système fédéral belge actuel.

The executive side would work much like the national systems of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg : a coalition of parties headed by a Prime minister and his/her cabinet.

La composante exécutive travaillerait à l’image des partis des Pays-Bas, de la Belgique et du Luxembourg : une coalition de partis menés par un Premier ministre et son cabinet.

On the Belgian political stage, the disappearance of Belgium should have little to no effect, as Flanders and Wallonia already have distinct parties and governments. The members of the Belgian government would therefore find it quite easy to reintegrate their respective community and achieve political success.

En ce qui concerne la scène politique belge, la disparition de la Belgique ne devrait pas avoir d’effet notable, vu que la Flandre et la Wallonie ont déjà des partis et des gouvernements distincts. Les membres du gouvernement fédéral belge devraient donc retrouver facilement du travail dans leurs communautés respectives.

As the political parties of the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium are divided along the same lines (Christian Democrats, Liberals, Socialists), there should be little difficulty finding common ground for the Confederated government.

Etant donné que les partis politiques des trois pays se divisent plus ou moins selon les mêmes critères (chrétiens-démocrates, socialistes, libéraux), il ne devrait pas y avoir de difficulté à former des coalitions solides au niveau de la Confédération.

There would be no official language, as in the US, to ensure that no minority (like the German- and Luxembourgish-speaking ones) is left aside. One working language should be used in the Confederation, and that should be English. It would avoid having to employ expensive translation equipment and personnel and would ensure that no language group feel inferior to the other, while using the only practical language of international relations. Furthemore, virtually everyone in the Low Countries speaks or learns English, that is not the case of French and Dutch.

Il n’y aurait pas de langue officielle, comme aux USA, pour s’assurer qu’aucune minorité (en particulier les germanophones) ne soit mise sur le côté. Une langue de travail serait choisie, l’anglais. Cela éviterait le coût prohibitif des équipements et du personnel de traduction, et utiliserait la seule langue viable pour les communications internationales.

Qui plus est, presque tout le monde dans le Benelux parle ou apprend l’anglais, ce qui n’est pas le cas du français et du néerlandais.

Brussels would become the seat of this new organization, because of its bilingual status and proximity to European institutions. Furthemore, the Benelux will have the opportunity to use the buildings of the now-extinct Belgian federal government. Its status should be one of a separate district, akin to Washington D.C.

Rudy Aernoudt’s book ‘Bruxelles : l’enfant mal aimé’ provides for a very enlightening outlook in that respect, even though it only envisions a Brussels D.C. from an EU (and not a Benelux) point of view. Another option would have Brussels as a seperate state, though that would probably make it too confrontational with its only neighbour, Flanders.

Bruxelles deviendrait le siège de la nouvelle organisation, grâce à son statut bilingue et à la proximité des institutions européennes. De plus, le Benelux pourra utiliser les bâtiments désormais déserts de l’ex-gouvernement fédéral belge. Le statut de la ville devrait être similaire à celui de Washington D.C. ou de Brasilia.

Le livre ‘Bruxelles : l’enfant mal aimé’ de Rudy Aernoudt offre une vision intéressante de la question, même si il n’envisage le Brussels D.C. que du point de vue de l’Union européenne (et pas du Benelux). Une autre option serait de faire de Bruxelles un état indépendant, mais cela engendrerait probablement des conflits avec sa seule voisine : la Flandre.

Flanders would gain much needed autonomy in the new Confederation, whose heavily Dutch-speaking majority and English working language would certainly reassure the fears of ‘verfransing’ (French-isation) on the part of Flemish nationalists. It would also no longer be alone in assuming the burden of subsidizing Wallonia, which in turn would probably benefit from a climate of renewed confidence between both communities.

La Flandre gagnerait son autonomie tant convoitée dans la nouvelle Confédération, dont la vaste majorité parle le néerlandais et dont la langue de travail est l’anglais. Cela contribuerait certainement à rassurer les nationalistes flamands sur la ‘francisation’. La Flandre ne serait également plus seule à supporter les coûts des subsides vers la Wallonie, qui bénéficierait elle-même d’un climat de confiance enfin retrouvée entre les deux communautés.

The Netherlands and Luxembourg would gain with the formation of the Benelux Confederation a massive power (28 million people, a GDP close to those of Russia and Spain) and an unprecedented influence on European and world affairs. On linguistic grounds, the Dutch language would regain much needed appeal, what with it being the language of eighty percent of the Benelux’s population. Not to mention its greater attractivity to foreign investors (Benelux is easy on the ear and, unlike the three countries taken seperately, is easily visible on a world map) and international venues such as the FIFA World Cup, which is already a combined bid of Belgium and the Netherlands.

Les Pays-Bas et le Luxembourg gagneraient avec la formation de la Confédération du Benelux une puissance importante (28 millions d’habitants, un PIB proche de ceux de la Russie et de l’Espagne) et une influence sans précédent sur les questions européennes et mondiales. Sur le terrain linguistique, le néerlandais retrouverait son attrait car c’est la langue de quatre-vingt pourcents de la population. Le Benelux attirerait facilement les investisseurs étrangers (le nom est facile à dire et retenir, et le pays est aisément visible sur une carte, ce qui n’est pas le cas des trois pays pris séparément) et des évènements étrangers dont la Coupe du monde de football, qui est d’ailleurs déjà un projet commun entre les Pays-Bas et la Belgique.

Within the EU, the Benelux Confederation would provide much-needed counterweight to the Britain-France-Germany trio and could serve as the voice of small European countries who feel left out of European decision-making processes.

Furthemore, the US-inspired constitution of the Confederation would allow for the integration of other European states in the future, allowing Guy Verhofstad’s vision of a United States of Europe to eventually come true.

A l’intérieur de l’Union européenne, la Confédération du Benelux fournirait un contrepoid bien nécessaire à l’omniprésent trio Grande-Bretagne-Allemagne-France et pourrait se présenter comme la voix des petits pays européens se sentant délaissés des processus décisionnels européens.

Qui plus est, la constitution de la Confédération, inspirée de sa célèbre version américaine, ouvre tout à fait la voie à une adhésion future d’autres pays européens, permettant à la vision de Guy Verhofstad des Etats-Unis d’Europe de voir le jour.

jeudi 16 juillet 2009

Nelly Furtado avant Timbaland

Bien que l'album Loose (2006) soit véritablement l'opus de la consécration pour Nelly Furtado, la jolie canadienne d'origine portugaise avait précédemment sorti deux albums fort différents : Whoa, Nelly! en 2000 et Folklore en 2003.

Le premier remporte un beau succès commercial accompagné d'un avis très positif de la part des critiques qui apprécient la diversité des sonorités et le mélange des genres. Evidemment, tout le monde se rappelle du magnifique I'm Like A Bird, mais d'autres chansons méritent vraiment le détour : les singles ...On The Radio et Turn Off The Light ainsi que les chansons Baby Girl, Trynna Find A Way et Well, Well.

Le second, Folklore, passe quasiment inaperçu. La faute à une promotion inexistante et un contenu peut-être moins audacieux. En tout cas, il regorge de chansons excellentes, dont le splendide Try ou Powerless. Le single pilote, Força, manque un peu de punch. D'autres chansons à télécharger de cet opus : Fresh Off The Boat et The Grass Is Green.

Enfin, mentionnons quand-même l'énorme troisième album et ses tubes planétaires : Maneater, Promiscuous, Say It Right, All Good Things (Come To An End). Dans celles qui ont été moins diffusées, In God's Hands et No Hay Igual sortent du lot même si *toutes* les chansons de l'album sont excellentes, malgré (parce que ?) qu'elles soient en totale rupture avec son style d'avant.

Mon best-of personnel de Nelly

Turn Off The Light



Say It Right

No Hay Igual

Enfin, tout ça en espérant que mes rares lecteurs aiment Nelly Furtado... :_D !