NORTHERN CATALONIA

3. Musician Pascal Comelade
'If you do something in Paris, people talk about it...'
He is one of the most internationally acclaimed Catalan musicians, but is still little known to the general public, and not because he dresses in black or is hidden away behind a piano, be it a concert grand or a toy, but because he is more preoccupied with the genesis of his work than its transmission.

He agrees that there is a Catalan culture in Northern Catalonia, and lists some of its manifest forms: at least some if not all of the 160 or so Catalan associations; the teacing of Catalan in the schools; the language circuit, within which he highlights the work being done since the 1980s by the schools in Catalan La Bressola and Arrels; singers and music groups; Ràdio Arrels, which has broadcast entirely in Catalan since 1981; all kinds of public events, and, of course, individual people.

So far, so good, but how healthy is this culture? 'Actually, every day it becomes a more minority culture at home. More than sixty per cent of the population is non-Catalan. These people are not foreigners or immigrants. I'm talking about the population of this country, who are not Catalan, and it's normal to say that our culture is minority here. You only have to look at a year's programme of cultural activities in Northern Catalonia, whether in Perpignan or in the villages, to see that Catalan culture accounts for only three or four per cent. The reality of this country is that more than eighty per cent of cultural provision is French, official or not, both in the villages or in the city. The Department of Catalan Culture in Perpignan organizes a circuit of song, but if you take the jazz festival, or other events on the official municipal circuit, then in terms of Catalan culture there is nothing at all. What is more, there is a very strong anti-Catalan attitude and of course the border is always there. In other words, no relationship with Figueres, Girona or Barcelona, apart from people like Blues de Picolat or myself.'

Comelade, born in Montpellier in 1955, lives near Ceret and has a normal, day to day relationship with the Catalonia south of the border. He lived in Barcelona when he was younger, during the 'rock laietà' years. The only problem is that in Northern Catalonia people don't have a very clear perception of his work. 'A few months ago the Perpignan papers wrote about my CD [Psicòtic Music Hall, Drac/Delabel, 2002] because there were posters all around Paris with my face on them, announcing a concert there'.

'From that moment, I became interesting,' he continues. 'But just a month before that I had played in Barcelona, at the Mercè festival, in the square in front of the cathedral, with an audience of 8,000, and Drac had released my album in Barcelona, and no one had mentioned it. If you do something in Paris, people talk about it; if you do something in Barcelona, it amounts to saying that there is a Catalan reality that is working, and for the politicians there cannot be anything like a normal north-south relationship.'

He has ended up living three lives: as a musician from Northern Catalonia working in Southern Catalonia; as a musician in Northern Catalonia and as a French musician.










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