URI professor authors book on French hip-hop
KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 24, 2002 -- University of Rhode Island Assistant Professor of French and Film Studies, Alain Phillipe Durand, remembers his introduction to hip-hop culture growing up in Marseille, France: "I was in high school and this kid asked me to pull his finger. When I did, he began to perform a series of dance moves we now call break dancing." From this point on Durand who is a Peace Dale resident was immersed in a culture that involved rap music, hip-hop dance, and graffiti, also known as tagging. His love for this popular form of expression has led to the creation of the first book on French hip-hop culture written in English.
Black, Blanc, Beur discusses the growing popularity of rap music and hip-hop culture in the Francophone world, since its arrival in France during the early 1980s. The prominence of lyrical content in rap music has made it especially popular among the French, who embrace a love for words, according to Durand. The French, who at first tried to translate English lyrics, began to create their own lyrics and experiment with new beats. France has now become the second largest market for rap music. "The soccer stadium in Marseille has become the center for hip-hop culture," said Durand. "It is decorated with graffiti and French DJs and rappers perform there."
Work on the book began after Melvin Wade, director of URIs Multicultural Center, asked Durand to give a presentation on French hip-hop in the spring of 2000. After preparing for the hour-long presentation, Durand realized he had enough material for a book. He contacted Adam Krims, associate professor of music and director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Alberta, Canada, who is a leading authority on the study of hip-hop culture in America and author of the foreword to Black, Blanc, Beur. Krims recommended other experts on the topic, who contributed chapters for Durands book.
The title Black, Blanc, Beur is a play on words. The phrase can represent the colors of the French flag, which are blue, white and red or bleu, blanc and rouge. Beur is also a term used to describe the children of North African immigrants in France. It was also a phrase used during the 1970s to protest racism, and most recently, was used as the headline in a leading news story discussing the French victory in the 1998 World Cup Soccer game. The phrase was used to describe the French victory as a victory of diversity. Members of the French team came from many different racial backgrounds. "So do the lovers of hip-hop culture," says Durand.
The URI professor plans to incorporate sections of the book into his classes at URI and hopes to create a course dealing strictly with French hip-hop culture. "I want to stress aspects of French culture besides wine, cheese, perfume and the Eiffel Tower," he says. Durand, recipient of the 2002 Teaching Excellence Award, is also the program director of the URI in Marseille Study Abroad program (www.uri.edu/urim).
For more information concerning Black, Blanc, Beur visit the Scarecrow Press website at www.scarecrowpress.com.
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