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Cropping up between the ’70s and mid-’80s and the eras of disco and modern electronic music, ‘French boogie’ is a nebulous term used to describe a new, carefree form of music that didn’t take itself seriously. The legalisation of pirate radio in the country in 1981 allowed people to adopt a freer attitude towards what they spun on the airwaves and produced fertile ground for new sounds to take hold. French boogie emerged initially as catchy, danceable blends of American synthetic funk, plus disco, soul and old school rap, and the genre would come to herald the beginnings of French rap.
As someone with a distinct interest in this musical era, we asked DJ/producer Lazare Hoche to pick out his favourite tracks. Named after an 18th century Revolutionary Army general, the Paris-born artist is one of French house music’s most popular figures, and someone who refuses to stick to one creative outlet. As well as DJing, producing and running his own Perfect Pushup label, he takes photos at Paris disco event ‘Je’Taime’, and is an active participant in the fashion world, getting tapped up by the likes of Virgil Abloh. Read on for Lazare Hoche’s picks of the very best in French boogie.
1. Guy Cuevas – ‘Obsession’ (1982)
“A splendid character from the ’80s club era in Paris, Guy Cuevas was the most flamboyant resident DJ from [legendary nightclub] Le Palace in Paris. First released in 1982, mixed by Francois Kevorkian. This single is a testimony of the flawless vibe Guy was bringing to French dance music. Edgy and hype at the same time, The Palace was the colour palette of the French club scene in this period.”
2. Alec Mansion – ‘Dans L’eau De Nice’ (1983)
“Very interesting singer from Belgium, this particular track reminds me a lot of the classic Joe Jackson – ‘Steppin’ Out’, but with a more naïve feel to it. And pretty much 20th century oriented lyrics, talking about highways airport and traffic as a good, modern and progressive thing. Alec Mansion is a Belgian composer and lyricist, born in 1958. Since he started his career in the 1980s, he has worked with various Belgian and international artists, and has also composed a lot for TV and radio, including advertising. This track was released in 1983 part of his self-titled album.”
3. Tabala – ‘Tabala Mouv’ (1986)
“On a zouk Caribbean note, Tabala is also a pure product of France. The charm of this ’80s zouk era is is always very refreshing in French FM radio, although in our scene, this track found a highlight after Motor City Drum Ensemble played it on the RA Dimension stage.”
4. Ekambi Brillant – ‘Aboki’ (1975)
“Wicked afro funk track by Cameroonian artist Ekambi Brillant. It appears on his first LP ‘Africa Oumba’ (1975 Fiesta) and was also issued on 7″. A Slim Pezin (Voyage, Arpadys, VIP Connection and so on…) production. Ekambi Brillant remains the most inspirational artist of his generation. This is a piece of perfect art.”
5. Plaisir – ‘Visa Pour Aimer’ (1984)
“Super nice funky summer song, the one you would love to have on radio if you guys were already cruising down Ocean Drive in the ’80s and for the younger among us, the one you would love to hear on GTA Vice City radio.”
6. Andy Nelson – ‘Bionic Eyes’ (1982)
“Andy Nelson’s real name is Serge Ponsar. The artist is a one-album French singer, he had a wonderful dance hit with ‘Out In The Night‘. Serge died in Paris in 1993. This ‘Bionic Eyes’ track is a tripped-out b-side of his single ‘Lady Angie‘.”
7. Lio – ‘Banana Split (Disco Version)’ (1979)
“Hysterical high-NRG anthem. This song was a hit in France, and is still played at weddings and at Parisian eclectic underground parties at the same time. This disco version is all about the one-minute intro that leads into the song. Very powerful dancefloor weapon in the pure French boogie tradition.”
8. Gregoire Lawani – ‘Habie’ (1977)
“Wonderful artist from Togo, Gergoire Lawani was also Minister of Culture & Sports, he died in Brussels in 2013. This track was released by French label BBZ Production.”
9. Jean Yanne/Raymond Alessandrini – ‘Homosexualis Discotecus’ (1982)
“Soundtrack to the French comedy Deux Heures Moins le Quart avant Jesus Christ which means “One hour forty five before Jesus Christ”. Again a testimony of the hi-NRG uptempo dance tracks from the ’80s dance scene. Really peculiar trip to drop it on a DJ set.”
10. Jean-Jacques Perrey – ‘E.V.A.’
“Most of you are familiar with the sample but I’m still happy to share the original! Jean-Jacques Perrey (born 1929 in France, died 2016 in Switzerland) was a French electronic musician, composer and an early pioneer in the electronic music genre. Befriending Robert Moog, he became one of the first Moog musicians, creating “far out electronic entertainment”.”
Lazare Hoche’s Perfect Pushup label is releasing its first double single from himself and SAM, titled ‘Perfect Pushup 01’. Find it here.