June 28, 2006
Keren Ann Zeidel (mostly known as simply Keren Ann)
is a French singer-songwriter who is
currently devoting equal time between Paris and New York City. I
her a few months ago during my exploration of the French musical scene. I
recommend these 3 sites for exploring and discovering artists with a style
that fits your taste:
To me, Keren Ann is particularly fascinating beyond her musical
starters, her parentage and childhood: She's born in Israel, to a Russian
Jews father, and a Javanese Dutch mother. Right at birth, she's got the
unique quad-heritage/genes from Russia, Israel,
Java (island) and Netherlands.
She spent her childhood living in both Israel and The Netherlands, until age 11, when her
family moved to France. Now at 31, she basically grew up as a
French woman with a Dutch and Israeli childhood.
Keren Ann became somewhat
popular in her adopted homeland of France among the young audience, and is
starting to achieve a following in the United States. Two years ago, she
came to New York City to expand her career in the U.S. market. She speaks
seemingly impeccable English and assimilates very well into American
culture. So, she is now an Americanized French woman, who retains her Dutch
citizenship, with Israel being near and dear to her.
perspectives, and wisdom transcend boundaries of sovereignty, religions and
geographic distance. Naturally, she's a source of admiration and inspiration
for the young (at-heart, or in chronological age) multi-cultural crowd.
She has an on-going musical collaboration with an Icelandic group. She also
speaks Hebrew and many other languages. In an interview with The Jewish
Journal of Greater Los Angeles, she stated:
I am very
attached to Israel as a country... [However] I don’t go by religion
or nationality. I just go by being a human being. I can’t
handle the responsibility of representing a particular community. I can only
represent my personal thoughts and beliefs.
Bravo, Keren Ann!
As an artist, she's quite versatile and
multi-talented. She's among the new generation taking the
less-than-conventional approach to music production. Her Manhattan apartment
also doubles as her recording studio. She operates her own sophisticated
digital recording equipment and sends off the results to sound engineers for
further refinement and mixing. The benefits are beyond
productivity and logistical efficiency. In an
article in The New York Times,
she told the reporter:
It's also different when
you can record your own vocals and nobody hears you. You can confess more.
If I had not done 'Nolita' this way, it would have been less
intimate, less naked.
Ann wrote almost all of her pieces herself, with occasional collaborations
with other artists. The lyrics are clearly partially autobiographical. In addition to the usual reference to
matters of the heart, there is the frequent theme of dislocation and
issues arising from long distance relationships. Her keen observations are nicely
captured and conveyed in her succinct style.
I personally find it very vicarious and easy to
relate. Her voice is very mellow, clear and soothing. Her style is very
genuine and down-to-earth, and free of gimmicks and excessive devices. Her
singing is best described as emotionally subtle, almost "detached" at times,
and yet very effective and paradoxically expressive.
At first glance, some of her works could appear monotonous and
unexciting to some. However, I came to appreciate that "taste great, less filling" effect
very quickly. A lot of her songs are what I'd call "un-love
songs" (love songs minus the overdose of cliché), which are much more appealing to
those who are in a stable and
sustained post-infatuation phase of the romance cycle.
Her genre is a cross between folk
and jazz, and maybe a bit of pop. A few of her pieces are richly arranged.
Overall, they consist of mainly an acoustic guitar, backup by violin accompaniments. Often, they begin with beautiful
guitar arpeggio chords. I should also point out that she got
her influence from Françoise Hardy, Joni Mitchell and Suzanne Vega.
I did a lyrics translation (French to English) of her 2000 debut CD
biographie de Luka Philipsen. The reference to "Luka" is a homage to her
mentor and friend―American folk singer
Suzanne Vega. I plan to write a formal critique of her first 2 CD releases, which are in French.
Her 2 subsequent CDs are half French and half English. Stay tuned.