Musicians compete for a place in the Paris metro

Paris (AFP) – In the morning, Eli Jadelot sells chocolate cakes at a bakery. In the evenings he changes the apron for a wedding dress and the sweet cakes for sweet melodies.

Jadelot is a street musician in the Paris metro, one of the 300 musicians authorized by the French capital’s transit network to perform in its vast network of corridors.

“I don’t see it as a professional springboard, but as another way of making music, in a different environment,” said Jadelot, 39, who often works as a street performer near Montmartre’s Sacre Coeur tourist area after countless odd jobs. since moving to Paris from Lorraine 16 years ago, driven by dreams of an acting career in the capital.

“I want to see how I manage in a place where people just walk by. Will they react or not?” he told her as he prepared to perform at the Saint-Lazare station, one of the busiest commuter hubs in Europe.

Faced with an overwhelming number of would-be buskers, without permission and often without talent, the Paris metro operator RATP decided 25 years ago to license the top 300 to perform legally and ban everyone else.

Every six months, a jury made up of RATP staff listens to around 1,000 applicants and selects their favorites who come to play in the corridors of metro stations, although not on platforms or on board trains.

This does not, of course, stop unofficial musicians looking to serenade travelers on the trains themselves.

‘She is amazing’

Jadelot first applied last year, and her selection of songs about love, work and everyday life immediately appealed to her.


Her stage attire, a stunning wedding dress lent to her by a friend, may have helped.

“She’s amazing, in her wedding dress, plus her lovely smile,” said Cherif Medouni, an educator who often stops to listen to buskers on his journey.

“Her songs are beautiful, poetic, with a rebellious touch,” he said.

For their selection, the RATP jury does not rule out any instrument, said Stella Sainson, head of the “Metro Musician” label, “although some are difficult to handle, like the Djembe, which is very loud.”

Remember where you first heard it.
Remember where you first heard it. © JOEL SAGET / AFP

Arnaud Moyencourt, who has played his barrel organ in the metro since 1992, made the cut again this time. “He represents the Paris of yesteryear,” said a member of the jury, Sofia Tondinelli. “I would definitely stop for him.”

Camille Millian, who sang a Whitney Houston version to renew her license, was also selected. “The subway is one of my best places,” she said.

Riana Rabe, a second-time entrant, also did it with soft renditions of a song from the Disney movie “Mulan,” and one by Radiohead, accompanying herself on a pink electro-acoustic ukulele. “I’ve always been a little scared of people, but now I’ve found out that they’re actually extremely friendly,” she said.

Also licensed were Dominique, who followed in her uncle’s footsteps as a musical saw virtuoso, Anna Leonid Byulakh from Ukraine, who accompanies her violin playing with artistic leaps, and Abram Lacoste, who quit his job as a music analyst eight months ago. , and by Hugo Vaxelaire with his nyckelharpa, a harp-like contraption that is Sweden’s national instrument.

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‘Need to attract attention’

The unlucky applicants include another ukulele player — “poor thing, she’s not ready,” Sainson said — and a 28-year-old Chinese violinist with wide glasses who was deemed too shy for the challenge.

“They need to be able to get attention, otherwise people just walk by, lost in thought,” Tondinelli said.

Some buskers go on to aboveground careers, even to France-wide fame, including singer-songwriter Zaz, singer-accordionist Claudio Capeo, and pop group Arcadian, who hit the talent show “The Voice” and released two albums.

But for most underground artists, it’s not about fame or money, and that’s probably for the best.

“On a good day, you win 25 euros ($27),” Jadelot said.