NORTHERN CATALONIA

6. Songwriter Gérard Jacquet
At the age of sixteen he said to himself that 'if I was going be a singer it was a question of doing it in an original, individual way, and the most obvious way was to sing songs in Catalan'.
Musician, poet and painter, Jacquet's popularity has come through the radio: for the last sixteen years he has been a presenter on Radio France's Pyrénées Orientales broadcasts. And the majority of the audience is French. 'The radio is for all of the people who live here, and more than half of them were born elsewhere. Because there are fewer and fewer people here who speak and understand Catalan'.

What's more, he says, one must bear in mind that in the 1970s and 80s the young people had to leave here to find work. So we're mounting a resistance, but when you're working on a radio you can't resist in the same way as when you're on the outside. And the problem is that the Catalan community doesn't get involved, doesn't demand more Catalan. The main reason, among others, is that there is already a Catalan station here, Arrels, and the people who are motivated listen to that station. They're not going to go and ask the station that represents the French State to put out more Catalan. So there's a diverting of the forces working to keep Catalan alive'.

Jacquet (Sant Feliu d'Amunt, 1955), whose point of reference is the village, his own village, - that's where you can feel the essence,' has always heard Catalan at home, although his parents and grandparents, who talked to one another in Catalan, spoke to the children in French, 'because social advancement meant using French, not Catalan, which they themselves considered to be a peasant language that belonged to the past. At the age of 16 he said to himself that 'if I was going be a singer it was a question of doing it in an original, individual way, and the most obvious way was to sing songs in Catalan'. In 1977 he joined the music group Guillem de Cabasteny, a forerunner of the Setze Jutges, with whom he toured the village halls, modulating his love of the people and the lament for the land.

In his writing, Jacquet uses a Catalan that is all his own. There are no French words, but many are of Occitan or archaic origin. 'For me, [the Rossellonès language] is a diamond, a treasure'. He is aware that there are reasons for all of this, but the fact is that 'the spoken form we have here, which has its riches, its specific quality, is being lost, because Catalan is no longer the language of the home, and the initiatives being taken in the schools are insufficient'. He still sings because he is 'very stubborn', even though it would be easier if he sang in French, of course. 'What is more, there is a lot of pressure. When you sing in Catalan, at the end of the concert there are always people who come up to you and ask why you never do a song in French. Because you have to bear in mind that a lot of your audience don't understand a word'.







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