Marie-Claude Lebel, aka Mademoiselle, has been and still is one of my favorite musical acts in the city! I could go on for hours about how amazing she is and how she puts on some of the best live performances and commands a stage with the technique and presence of an seasoned military general. She is also THE original BeijingDaze crush with a voice to make a grown man weep and a smile that melts mountains!
She was kind enough to take some time off and answer a few questions for BeijingDaze about her songs, her bands, Beijing and artists you outta know which I am thankful for!
1- What’s going on in your world? This is your chance to plug your stuff:
Lots of unpleasant corporate gigs in the moment (to pay the rent!), but also fun ones in bars: This friday, for the first time, Mademoiselle et son Orchestre (a six piece band with Sebastian Meyer on doubble-bass, Vincent Vahramian and Mathieu Wahiche on guitars, Antoine Oosterom on clarinette, Nicolas Mege on the drums and me on vocals and accordion) will be playing at CD Jazz Cafe, and on may 8th, at the Ditan Folk Music Festival. Also on may 21st at the new V.A Jazz Bar near the Lama Temple and june 23rd at Salud. I Also play at Modern Sky Music Festival on may 1st with a chinese folk singer called Cao Fang.
2- I would like to clear up a little bit of confusion: What is the difference between Mademoiselle, Panache Pour Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle et Chinois and your other incarnations? It’s sometimes difficult to keep track:
Hahaha! Yeah, its a lot of different names for a Band! Actually, when I started the Band 6 years ago, it was called Panache(e), which means a mix of different things At that time we were a bunch of chinese, british, german, french and quebec musicians. Then I changed to Mademoiselle et les Chinois when I was playing with only chinese jazz musicians, then they were no more chinese in the band but we kept it, that was funny, and then Vincent, one of the two guitarist arrived with that idea of an Orchestra when we were playing 5 musicians so now the gypsy jazz band is called Mademoiselle et son Orchestre, and there is also Mademoiselle Jazz Trio, playing mostly american jazz standards with a different guitar player and the doubble-bassist. Coming soon: Mademoiselle and the Brazilian Samba dancers. Just jocking.
3- Did you know that the first 2 music posts on BeijingDaze.com both mentioned Mademoiselle? I had no idea I have been groupie for that long
And I had no idea I would be living in Beijing for that long! I came for a year in 2002, as a french teacher. Then I worked for Microsoft and now I am a full time rock star! hahaha!
4- So, rumors of a new album are floating around… when can we expect it, what can we expect in it?
We will be recording this spring and during summer. I would like to record original Mademoiselle stuff (we already have about 8 original songs) and one cd of funny covers from old french songs and some crazy 80s tunes that we turn into gypsy jazz… But I really need to write new songs. I am a bit lazy…
5- How do you choose the songs you’re gonna cover?
Its all songs I love! We like the old (Piaf, Brassens, Gainsbourg) and more recent (Pierre Lapointe, Sanseverino, Alexis HK, Rita Mitsouko) french and quebecoises songs with funny lyrics, songs with a story, characters, and images.
6- Your own songs, like “la grande muraille” and “cafe pour deux” are fairly risque and sexy… are those a good measure of Marie Claude’s personality?
I think so! I like to confront the chinese audience with some “burelesque” or funny songs, they dont have it here! And I cant write serious or sad (not yet) poetry so I go for funny and light strories that goes along with the swing of the gypsy music!
7- Word association: write the first word that comes to your mind.
* Beijing: Gray (ok, this week its terrible, that might have influenced my answer…)
* Baijiu: Can’t anymore!
* Brassens: best songwriter in the world and “moustache”.
* Theresa Teng : Den Li Jun! I love one of her song (not the most popular) saying “zai lai yi bei”… when I am drunk at the bar, I sing it to the waiter and (sometimes) can get free drinks! hahahah!
* Hutongs: home
* Polka dots: Beijing dogs’ pyjamas
8- YOur repertoire has songs in French, English and Chinese. Can you name 1 song in each language that is representative of Beijing for you and tell us why you chose it?
Chinese: “Wo de xin li zhi you ni mei you ta” it remembers me of a show we did on CCTV, for the Chinese new year, and we had to fight hard to get the autorisation to play live music with real musicians on stage. There were 26 performances on that show, and we were the only people not doing play back. Even the stand-up telling jokes was talking over a cd… But we did it! May be it was the first time in the Chinese TV history! hahahahha!
English: Ok, its a bit stupid, but we often play “summertime” on corporate gigs for rich chinese buying porshe or rolex, and when there is kids (the “unique” little emperor) I enjoy singing to them “ohhhhhhhhhh your daddy is rich”!!!!!
French: In one of my song called “bulle” I talk about the sand falling like snow and a guy with 200 bottles of YanJin Beer on a little tricycle. That’s Beijing.
9- You’ve been around for a few years around the music scene in Beijing/China. How has it changed since you arrived and what artists do you think deserve more recognition than they get?
Its pretty hard for chinese underground musicians to survive here… And “underground” here is not some weird DJ making noise with kitchen tools, its everything that we cant see on TV or listen on the radio: folk, reggae,rock, jazz, ethnic and electronic music, etc… Its cool to see that the guys from the “San li tun Nan Jie “River Bar” 8 years ago singing their own crazy and not conventionnal stuff like Xiao He, Zhang Wei Wei, Wang Xiao Li, had the chance to go to Europe on tour… Its crazy to think that the singer of the best “mainland” chinese rock band lives with 800 yuans a month,… when he has gigs… In the west, they go to gigs in a limo with champagne! I hope that the underground scene will take more and more place and touch more and more people instead of the stupid “Super Girl” (Chinese Idol), Hong Kong and Taiwan meaningless pop. I hope that bands like Buyi and singers like Li Xia, Dong Zi, Wang Yu Qi, Xiao Bu Ding, will get the recognition they deserve.
10 – On the “gourmandise” side of things, what are some of your favorite Chinese restaurants in Beijing?
its the Shaan Xi noodle restaurant near the Lama Temple! Awesome!
Once more, I’d like to thank Marie Claude for her time and for a special surprise that she’s given Ze Dazemeister and that will be shared with you folks shortly! In the meantime, I suggest you find some time and go check out one her shows sooner than later! Trust me, you’ll be hypnotized!
Catch Mademoiselle et son Orchestre Friday April 23rd (tonight) at CD JAZZ Cafe (close to great wall sheraton):
Mademoiselle also plays regular thursday gigs at Nearby the Tree
Visit her on Myspace at: