The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011


A typical French babyAs befits our contraceptual nom de blog, your Paris correspondent doesn’t have any offspring. No children’s laughter rings round the hallowed halls of Chateau French Letter – and that suits us fine.

By contrast, many people of our acquaintance are hard at work on the baby-production assembly line, so much so that you’d think the future of the human race depended on it.

Christmas is, of course, a time for children – in particular, hysterical mass consumption of aggressively-marketed toys to placate the young heir/heiress (who never buys YOU anything!) on Christmas morning. But what to buy the small person in your life? If you’re a French parent, it may well be a CD.

Children are a lucrative demographic for French record companies – and not just for Christmas. All year round the French Top 40 singles and album charts has five or six records aimed at the Gallic toddler (by comparison, there are rarely any indie singles in the singles charts here, unlike in the UK or Ireland). High street record shops like FNAC devote plenty of floor-space to children’s records.

Pigloo, the punk penguinAnd French public libraries, with their large and diverse music collections, have children’s sections which are as big as (and maybe bigger than) the world music, blues, dance and metal sections.

So what are French children listening to? Well, colourful cartoon characters sing and dance to songs about holidays – at the beach in summer, on the ski-slopes in winter – and la rentree (the back-to-school period in September) and anything else that may attract young Zinedine (4 years old) and Segolene (5 and three-quarters).

That said, we found it surreal that a cartoon penguin called Pigloo (left) had a hit with a cover of Belgian punk rocker Plastic Bertrand’s 1978 hit ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’. French pre-schoolers are listening to punk – how cool is that? Pigloo’s many competitors will have to go some way to top that.

Ilona Mitrecey, the cartoon versionThe most popular but most peculiar of these children’s cartoon pop stars, a Dora The Explorer-esque little girl singing catchy songs about jungle animals and faraway places, has the strangely un-cartoon name of Ilona Mitrecey (right). This is because she’s a real, flesh-and-blood girl of that name. The young mademoiselle Mitrecey, in her early teens, sings the songs on record but the artwork and videos feature a cartoon version of her. Then, on live television, the real Ilona sings the songs.

The problem is that the real Ilona is quite a shy, ordinary, uncharismatic performer with none of the ‘look-at-me’ stage-school preening of most child stars – which makes her an anti-climax onstage compared to her colourful cartoon persona. And she’s a good 6 years older than her target audience, uncomfortably too grown-up for the songs she’s singing. We fear that long years of therapy - or a rebellious raunchy makeover - lie in store for Ilona.

Anyway, for the festive season, here's Pigloo's Christmas product, 'Le Noel De Pigloo'. Joyeux Noel!

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Nuggets from our archive

2008 - A comprehensive guide to recording an album, written by Andy Knightly (the guide is spread over 4 parts).