Érik Marchand

Colour merchant

Picture 1 Érik Marchand

With his deep voice and his mysterious clarinet tones, Erik Marchand is no travelling merchant, but he is a pedlar of Breton culture. As secret as he is discreet, this most Breton of Parisians is a past master of rhyming Poullaouen, where he has his Breton second home, with Boulaouane, the famous Moroccan wine.

Let it be said that Erik Marchand has nothing to sell, but plenty to tell. With his handlebar moustache and his round hat jammed down on his head, this singer has been collecting Breton lyrics and melodies for the famous organisation Dastum since the 1970s. Quite literally fascinated by gwerziou, Breton laments where singing takes centre stage, he has spent more than forty years fighting to stop them vanishing into obscurity, and also to give them a voice – that inimitable, deep voice carved from stone, a voice that can be picked out from among a thousand.

But that would be too pretty and simple a tale, enough to send even the sandman to sleep. And so Erik Marchand took to scattering the occasional album along his road to fame, like so many pebbles of different colours and shapes: playing with Gwerz, his first line-up, or alongside Thierry Robin, our very own Robin Hood of gypsy jazz. Or with his trio, as uncompromising as the music of his Clarinet quintet, or together with Rodolphe Burger, France’s very own Lou Reed, in a performance that showed he could transform his endless, bottomless voice into a moving blues, to the accompaniment of the enchanting chant of an electric oud.

His music is as well suited to sleepy cities and misty moors as it is to bustling medinas, and his soundscapes are as dusky and romantic as they are fascinating. How else can we put it? Our Marchand is truly cosmopolitan. And so, we declare this Erik state of mind to be free and independent.