Jean-Francois Ponthieux Talks So Frenchy So Chic in the Park
So Frenchy So Chic in the Park will be back again in 2013, celebrating French music, food, wine and culture in Melbourne. Jean-Francois Ponthieux is the founder of Cartell Music, an "independent music label bringing French music to willing ears," and the So Frenchy So Chic compilations and festivals. Ponthieux and Cartell Music have given Australians insight into French music in all its glory. We spoke to the entrepreneur about bringing the French je ne sais quoi to Australia.
What is the most interesting thing about French music?
Jean-Francois Ponthieux: France's music scene is one of Europe's most vibrant. Its influences are not just from within its borders and it has become a melting pot of languages and styles. Back in the 1950s, the Americans — who helped to liberate France in 1945 — influenced the Jazz at St. Germain des Pers featuring Boris Vian, Juliette Greco and the then unknown Serge Gainsourg. Artists such as Rachid Taha from the former colonies of North Africa have contributed to the French mosaic. French music is no longer a euphemism for Parisian postcard images but is a truly multicultural experience, taking in influences from far and wide.
How has the Australian audience embraced French music?
There is a strong francophile sentiment among Australians which manifests itself mainly through food, travel and cinema. Music entered the Australian peoples radar 15 years ago with the French touch (St. Germain, Etienne de Crecy, Daft Punk) and more recently with the eclectic array of contemporary bands such as Phoenix, Camille, Moriarty, Nouvelle Vague. France is slowly positioning itself a a credible alternative to Anglo-American pop culture.
So Frenchy So Chic in the Park is back again in 2013, what was your highlight of last years inaugural festival?
The joie de vivre. There was a great atmosphere and there is nothing more precious than memories that stay with you beyond the day and linger like a song.
What can we expect from this years So Frenchy So Chic Festival?
SFSC in the PARK is garden party for epicureans. We have curated a selection food, wine and of course music. The four bands, Nadeah, Revolver, Melanie Pain & Carmen Maria Vega, have over 1,000 performances under their collective belt and perform with great dexterity. The music has been programmed to create the soundtrack of an afternoon. We're trying to capture people imagination by transforming the Werribee Mansion into the French countryside with bails of hay, wine barrels and other evocative elements. This year we're adding more food outlets and themed bars to enrich the experience. There will be also more activities for children such as face painting, puppetry, drumming classes and games.
Cartell Music has bought so many fabulous French acts to the Australian shores. Do you have a favourite?
Not really, I work on each project intensively for three to six months. When the artist arrives I enjoy the tour like a climax, each experience has its own dynamic and feel. I have some favourite memories, such as the Rachid Taha After Party at my house, Nouvelle Vague with whom I have bonded over eight tours and the first concert I worked on in July 2007 with Emilie Simon at the Art Centre.
What music do you listen to when you want to celebrate?
It depends on the level and length of celebration! Afrobeat, '70s latin, electronic and old classics. Anything that will put a smile on my spine.
Where is your ultimate holiday destination?
Bhutan. I trekked there in 2008 and would go back in a heart beat.
What is it about music that inspires you?
It is a natural medicine that fuses happiness in a virtuous circle.
How did So Frenchy So Chic move from the infamous and unofficial soundtrack to the Alliance Francaise French Film Festival to the musical and French cultural extravaganza it is today?
It has been an organic growth of eight years, peaking with moments such as Camille topping the most requested song on JJJ for two months and the So Frenchy So Chic TV series on SBS. The project takes its true form with the festival because the experience is so much richer.
So Frenchy So Chic was the first French language album to reach the Top 10 in the Aria Charts. Do you think that Australians are looking for more interesting and eclectic music styles?
Yes I do because the world is bigger than The X Factor.
So Frenchy So Chic in the Park takes place January 20, 2012 at Werribee Mansion, Melbourne