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Du Bartàs, voice of the south of France

By Alison Hird

RFI reports from the recent Accents du sud festival in Paris which gave pride of place to the Occitan language from the south of France. Singers from the Béarn province in the Pyrenees showed why their region is known as "the land of song", and the band Du Bartàs from Languedoc gave the old, romantic, language a modern twist.

Du Bartàs, a five piece band, sing in Occitan and Arabic, reflecting the rich mix of their native Languedoc region. "Occitan is a very rhythmic language," says Jocelyn Papon, the band's vocalist, percussionist and cuatro player. And despite a drop in the number of people using the language, the band remains committed to keeping it alive. Papon talks about how they're reinventing the musical tradition, notably by incorporating Latin rhythms.

Du Bartas performing at RFI. RFI/Laurence Aloir

In the Béarn region, Occitan is very much alive and kicking thanks to a relatively stable population.  Pierre Salles, a former teacher of the language talks to RFI about the tradition of Cantèra (spontaneous group harmony singing). "We can't not sing," he says. Many people still know the rich repertory of songs dating back as early as the 14th century, while others (like himself) are writing new ones. 


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