Aicha Dusso is a singer who is looking forward to her forthcoming “French Song Cabaret” evening. The event is an intimate and poetic evening of songs by NYC-based singer-songwriter Aicha Dosso who is actively reviving the art of Parisian cabaret song. “French Song Cabaret” features music from her upcoming album at Chelsea Music Hall (407 W15th St, New York, NY 10011) on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased here.
Aicha Dosso describes herself as a multidisciplinary artist who was born in Cote d’Ivoire and raised in Paris where she studied English and then moved to New York to study method acting at the acclaimed Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. She considers reviving the forgotten art of Parsian-style musical cabaret her true calling.
The show at Chelsea Music Hall will feature original songs written and performed by Aicha Dosso, as well as a cover of Piaf’s famous Je ne regrette rien. The singer will be accompanied by an ensemble of musicians and backup singers.
Recently Aicha discussed this and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love for singing and how did you develop your voice?
Aicha Dosso (AD): OMG, I’ve always had a melodic sensitivity, even as a child. My mom has a very soft voice and her breathing is very paced and poised so I guess I got it from her. Growing up in Africa literally means growing up within music – it is omnipresent in so many different forms, from traditional music and dance, folklore with different sub-traditions, subcultures… Different fabrics, styles, steps, beats, different moods, and sounds, depending on the nature of the gathering. There were always drums, and they sounded like laughter at a wedding, or like crying at a funeral. There was also the neo-urban pop music I was surrounded by.
My parents are music lovers; their personal collection was very eclectic and international – they liked Fela, Miriam, Makeba, Bob Marley, jazz, and of course French songs. I am a sensitive soul with a strong level of empathy so I could connect to all those genres, they really resonated with me. As long as I can remember, I would make up songs and remember those melodies for a long time. Those melodies would become part of me. It’s very natural to me in everything I do actually – the way I move, the way I walk, and the way I dance. It’s like I have an ongoing rhythm within me. I believe everyone has their inner musicality, and some hear it and connect to it more – I am one of those fortunate people. I would say an inner lyricism that is to express and perspire through singing, dancing, moving, being.
MM: What is it about French cabaret that most appeals to you? What artists inspire you?
AD: I like the raw expressiveness of it. The French songs of this genre are humble, organic, truthful, fun, funny, absurd… I like the self-derision of this art form, the satire aspect of it, versatility of it, too. Sometimes a little theatrical, sometimes a tad seductive, somehow suggestive, a little sad, very honest, always light-hearted, never too serious… I personally like the clarity of speech and eloquence; my lyrics are actually poems, as they have been in the case of the most famous Parisian singers. One of my great heroes is Josephine Baker – she is the absolute embodiment of raw instinct at work and sophistication, boldness and embracing loving oneself in our most natural attire. An honest, fun character, she always seemed to be saying, “Why care that much when we can care less and just be happy to be who we are.” I also adore Mistinguett, the queen of Les Revues Parisiennes and of gouaille – a cheeky, humorous style of entertainment which she pioneered; it combines singing, dancing, comedy, satire, theatre – all in one. There is something about her name that is so very cute and moving… And, of course, Edith Piaf – the icon of French song, is so thrilling and communicates powerful, deep emotions. It’s extremely inspiring how she overcame the challenging conditions she grew up with into eternal, unforgettable art.
MM: Which songs do you most enjoy performing and why?
AD: I love performing Bien, the song that is the first single for my upcoming album – it is the first song I recorded and it expresses the paradox and duality of the good and the bad. The good always wins. I love, what we call in French mise-en-abyme – the literary style in which one thing manifests itself through another. For instance: while I am in New York, I see a photo by Robert Doisneau depicting Paris – and my mind travels back to France, wandering in this ambivalence of space and time, as if both cities were coexisting in the same moment in time, like a ripple creating a mirror effect. It feels great.
MM: You are also a songwriter, so what inspires you?
AD: I love to write; I love words and what they can do. I’d like to believe that I have a relationship with them because of the kind of sensibility I feel I have, so when I’m writing, I dip into my memories, connect with the sensations brought to me by my surroundings.
MM: What are the major differences you’ve noticed between the music scene in Paris and the one in New York?
AD: I don’t think there are significantly different. Wherever there is music, it exists as a universal language and a unifying vibration that brings people together, regardless of language, creed, or color of their skin. it’s instinctive and ever-present, people take from it what fits their lifestyles and personalities. Paris music scene is very open, vibrant and vivid – its mood can be traced way back to the 17th century, the golden age of French culture, the era called the Century of Light. Of course, things have evolved, molded, transformed along with social change. Both in Paris and in New York trends have been imported, exported, blended between both scenes. But I think both scenes are like two sisters that get along really well.
MM: How did you find the Chelsea Music Hall as a venue?
AD: I was working with my vocal coach and as we were talking and brainstorming about the project, she mentioned how awesome the Chelsea Music Hall was. I remember that I went there that same evening and I fell in love with that place. he staff is absolutely adorable, helpful, and so very professional; the audiences are great, not at all the kind of snobby crowd you see in many New York clubs these days. So yeah Chelsea Music Hall is love from the first sight.
MM: What do you hope audiences take away from the performance?
AD: I think that with my amazing band and background singers, the audience will get the real experience of French song live. When I’m out and about in the city and people happen to hear me speak French, they love it, they want to learn French or visit Paris And I’ve noticed that this kind of performance is in pretty low supply here in New York. I want to offer New Yorkers a genuine experience of this unique, expressive art form. Since I am a New Yorker now, fluent in both English and French, I can connect better with my audience so that they know what the songs are about and feel comfortable enjoying the lyricism, the vulnerability, the power and the cuteness of French song in my show.
MM: What are your ultimate career goals?
AD: My ultimate career goal is to revive the forgotten art form and style that can bring people closer to a reality they might think is far away, at least geographically. I want to give my audience a taste of France in New York. I want to share – share the love, the experience, the poetry of French songs, poetry and lyricism, the joy of it – and to make it available right here, right now. Like with fine wine, the only way to enjoy it is to sip it now.
MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
AD: I will be releasing my album called BIEN later this year and I am super excited! it’s going to be a deliciousness of 12 French songs to soothe the soul and access a dreamy state of consciousness where everything is possible.