The Paris Music Scene

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If you are in Paris and want
to check out the hottest music trends, there is no need to score
tickets to a hot concert or seek out the coolest live music venue. Find
instead, the chic hôtel, lounge, café, or bar whose DJs spin trendy
tunes. Not in Paris? Not a problem. Just buy some compact disc
compilations, and you’ll be all set.

 
I
am not a great music connoisseur. I am usually unable to tell you who
sings the hottest new song on the radio, or even what the hottest new
song may be. I at least know that Daft Punk is huge in France, as they
are an internationally successful band and they are French. But other
than that, I can’t tell you much about individuals or songs that are on
the cutting edge in the French capital. It is hard to miss however, a
certain genre of albums that have had wild success over the past few
years, and have seemed to exponentially grow in the past year alone:
those Paris café or lounge compilations.
 
These
are CDs put out by the hottest and trendiest restaurants that also
confusingly serve as hôtels, lounges, cafés, or bars. Just to name a
few, the list includes such posh venues as Buddha Bar (where Jack
Nicholson is said to have worked the door one night for fun), Hôtel
Costes (known to be the favorite of Madonna) and Man Ray (co-owners
include Johnny Depp, John Malkovitch, and Sean Penn).
 
These
places are not only or not necessarily known for their cuisine, but for
their ambiance—and music is what creates an important part of that
ambiance. DJs create that music, which is then packaged into
compilations, ready to purchase at a Virgin Megastore or FNAC near you.

 
The
ambiance music trend began a few years ago, and DJs from the famed
Buddha Bar and Hôtel Costes appear to be the pioneers in creating the
compilation CDs. The first trendy thing that the designer bars did was
to hire DJs to mix tunes—live—several nights a week, resulting in a
jet-set crowd clamoring to get in the door. The popularity of this move
was soon evident, and owners and managers realized they could sell the
music in order to please the clientele who were asking for the mixes,
and as a way of branding their restaurant. This sparked the current
barrage of CD compilations. Every trendy bar and exclusive hôtel is
entering the CD music market to capture some cash and build its brand
name, hoping to brew some individuality and loyal customers as well.
When
Buddha Bar opened in 1996, it brought new glitz to one of Paris’ most
chi-chi arrondissements (the 8th) and immediately jetted onto the
A-list as one of Europe’s top nightspots. Buddha Bar’s ambiance and
attraction became popular in large part due to Parisian DJ Claude
Challe. His first two Buddha Bar CDs opened up the lounge compilation
market, and he is regarded by many as the most famous bar DJ in the
world. His style experiments with New Age and mystical sounds while
tapping into the latest lounge music. The Hôtel Costes series, DJ’d by
Stephane Pompougnac, “perfected the sway ‘n’ chill formula,” creating
“Euroswank heaven,” according to Entertainment Weekly. Thus, a cottage
industry of compilation albums was born, as every swanky Parisian
hangout hired DJs who mixed world, electronic, and lounge grooves,
creating the ultimately chic atmosphere, and later, a soundtrack.
 
These
compilations are so prolific that entire music store sections have been
devoted to them. In the French Virgin Megastores you can go to the Pop
section, Jazz section, or Lounge Compilations section. In the latter,
the sumptuously designed CD packages march row upon row. The Hôtel
Costes collection is up to 5. Both Buddha Bar and Barfly offer 4 CDs.
Café del Mar, while not a Parisian institution, is the front runner in
terms of being prolific: the trendy hotspot has recently released its
9th compilation, and the CDs are wildly popular in Paris. Amongst other
Parisian night spots who have their own CDs are La Mezzanine de
l’Alcazar, Man Ray, Maxim’s, the Plaza, Café Latina, Barrio Latino, and
others. As well, there are compilations of lounge music, venue-neutral,
such as discs entitled Champs Élysées Café or Paris Nights.
 

The
CDs are the perfect ambiance for dinner parties or a late night soirée
with friends, but visiting one of these hot spots in Paris isn’t out of
your league either, the clientele can be quite diverse and includes
models, mavens, tourists, social-climbing backpackers, and average Joe
Shmoes. It’s the music that brings the masses together.

Bonjour Paris is pleased to have Lisa Raykovicz as a contributor.

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