2 x 12" Vinyl Album
After several years of research and constant enquiries, renowned French rapper Roc is
glad to (finally) present Par les damn .e.s de la terre [By the wretched of the Earth], a unique
compilation memorializing committed songs in French. These are 24 tracks with varied
claims and multiple backgrounds (see tracklisting/countries on page 3), that are brought
(back) to the public, along with a 40 pages booklet including exclusive notes from the
historians Na ma Yahi and Amzat Boukari-Yabara, presenting each song's historical situation.
I'm part of the generation that saw the rise of French rap, and along with it, a real craze for
this music created by the children of second and third generation immigrants. But I wanted
to go beyond rap, to dig deeper into Francophone artists who convey a message of poetic
urgency, of sensitive poetry on the edge, committed to a cause despite itself, because their
environment gives them no choice. The poetry of the "damn .e.s de la terre", "the wretched
of this earth". In the shadow of high-profile singer-songwriters are women and men who
became artists just for the time it took to release a single record.
There's no use trying to find the "exotic and funky" track in this collection, like a piece of
folklore made for French metropolitan consumption. These rhythms and lyrics are wrapped
in their own tough and sincere kind of blues. The French language unites regions of the
world that bear common burdens. Geopolitics and emotions are intermixed. The words of
the ancients resonate all the way into the ears of the kids of today, children of the diaspora.
Many artists present in this collection didn't have the good fortune of finding a receptive
audience at the time; I think that current issues around migration and identity will give
special resonance to these words and this music.
Two historians, Na ma Yahi and Amzat Boukari-Yabara, have written the liner notes for this
record. They describe the context of the time and in the countries where these tracks
This project, which is both musical and heritage-related, meets a specific need: bringing
forth (and back) these voices for new generations living in France who lack identification
with something, a historical omission of their parents' story as part of the political and cultural
landscape they cross through as they grow up. It writes an alternate history of music in
French. At the crossroads of the liberation struggles in the mother countries, the fight for
workers' rights, and of lives in exile, it shows us an era when struggles created brotherhood,
beliefs, dignity, links between oppressed peoples, and convergences that the History taught
in schoolbooks doesn't address. The way I see it, it's crucial to pass on these moments when
anything was possible, so that they infiltrate and disperse the bleak mood that new
generations are growing up with.
The children of the diaspora, as well as those of working men and women, need spaces
where their parents' history is passed on, these parents who sacrificed for years within
movements or in exile and have chosen quiet integration for their children, pointing toward
a future without all the heavy weight of memory. The past isn't easily transmitted when it's
burdened with taboos and when you consider your children to be free and safe, because
they were born in France. But our elders' struggles, in light of current ones, have incredible
value and are truly useful. The present does a lot better when it has a memory.
This record is thus a declaration, a piece of memory to show us that the window of
possibilities was open for a short time, before being closed up again, plunging us into
individualism, a short-term outlook, and a lack of projects to improve society. The absence
of these stories as part of History deprives us of hope, of the concept of brotherhood, of
resistance and of directions for self-defense. The current age imposes upon us its dystopian
fictions and stories of failure and dead ends.
The fossilized groove in these records helped me discover artists and intellectuals who
offered so many solutions. We know so little about Frantz Fanon, this Martiniquais who
championed the Algerian cause; we know far too little about the great Franklin Boukaka, the
Congolese artist who used a song to pay tribute to Moroccan politician Mehdi Ben Barka.
There was solidarity between students from Guadeloupe fighting for the independence of
this island and a Corsican militant from the FLNC who decided to host their music on his
We can all agree on one thing: there's no point if we don't have a common purpose. I don't
know what tomorrow will bring, but what I do know is that, with memory, we can add the
power and unity of the peoples of days gone by to the diaspora and the downtrodden of
today. We can place ourselves at the very heart of the story that's told, so we can break with
the rationale of an imperialist view of history.