France always had a great influence on singers or writers. The sea, the magical forests and the powerful history of the celtic region of Brittany have given lots of songs, books and paintings to choose from. In this article, we take a look at a few of these artists, leaving the rest up to you to continue the search and discover the secrets that Brittany has in store.
Alan Stivell is one of the most well-known artists of the West. He is particularly known for his use of the harp, which he uses for all of his songs. In the 1970s he revived the interest of the world in Breton and Celtic music, giving it a special twist with his harp and combining it with Celtic Rock.
Fun fact: His harp has bronze chords and his most critically acclaimed album, Renaissance of the Celtic Harp combines songs from Ireland to Scotland, Wales, Cornwall and Brittany, making it one of the most known and defining albums of the Celtic cultures ever recorded.
Nolwenn Leroy is a young singer and songwriter also from the West. She was born in Brittany and rose to fame after winning the second season of the French Star Academy in 2002. She has lots of platinum albums and songs that have reached the top of French Music Charts and slowly she has moved back to her roots. Most of her songs include symbols of the sea, an important element of the Breton culture. Her live performances are always praised by the audience and she already gathered a huge fan base in France. Her latest live album, Ô Tour de L’Eau, is a great way to discover her voice, her love for the stage and her beautiful voice
Moving a bit to the rock genre now, Matmatah is a Breton band formed in 1992. Influenced by artists such as The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel or Neil Young, they have tried to combine Celtic and Breton music with rock, while also making their own rock songs. They are known for their craziness on stage and for mocking society and the censorships that were sometimes imposed on lyrics. Their last album was released in 2007 and they stopped playing in 2008, but they are still loved and remembered in Brittany.
Even though he is not Breton, this book is a beautiful depiction of life in Brittany during the 1799 uprising in the city of Fougéres. Balzac fell in love with Brittany during a trip, so he gathered notes and descriptions of people to start writing his novel. Les Chouans combines a military backdrop with a love story, describing the people who sculpted the past and made the first steps to the future. Passionate love, social status, war, and battles are all main themes of the novel and if you are familiar with Balzac, the novel marked a turning point in his career. This is because the novel was written not to sell copies, but to actually try and write something that is hard to read, complex and descriptive of the times.
This writer from Brittany is mostly known for not only featuring Brittany and Normandy in his writings, but also because he is one of the fathers of crime fiction. His novel Jean Diable published in 1862 is one of the first to feature a detective narrative, continuing later on with a criminal saga Les Habits Noirs. He even has a Zorro-like character in Le Loup Blanc, published in 1843, featuring a real life person Philippe II, Duke d’Orléans.
Born in beautiful Saint Malo, François René is one of the parents of romanticism in French literature, as well as a powerful influence abroad. Even though he was also a politician and historian, his description of nature and emotions made him a powerful character in romanticism, influencing the likes of Victor Hugo or Stendhal. His memoirs are a good example of his life and of his representation of the ideas of romanticism: Memoires d’Outre Tombe. He lived in many places across the world, so his memoirs make for fascinating reading in discovering romanticism during the 1700s-1800s.
If you are in the area, you might as well visit Pont-Aven. This little town has numerous art galleries, also probably more than boulangeries, and you can even follow in the footsteps of artists such as Paul Gauguin by the river. Find out more about Gauguin and Brittany to discover the influence Brittany had on art and post-impressionism.
If you ever want to discover more Breton writers and books, try and visit Bécherel. This little town in the department of Ille-et-Vilaine is called the La Cité du Livre en Bretagne (The City of the Book in Brittany). Full of libraries, the city has probably more book stores present than coffee shops.
We are sure that Brittany has many more incredible artists or authors to be discovered. Do you have any recommendations” Leave them in a comment below!