#JeSuisCharlie. This hashtag has been trending worldwide, but what does it mean? “Je suis Charlie” is French for “I am Charlie.” Charlie Hebdo is a satirical French newspaper whose offices were recently attacked for publishing cartoons that were deemed offensive by extremist groups. Lives were lost, yet their deaths have not been in vain. Among all of the discussions being had due to this tragic affair, French reggae group Tryo wrote a song in response to the attacks.
Tryo is an unplugged reggae group that is quite popular in France. As is the case with most reggae music, the group’s lyrics are focused on politics and love, though Tryo pens humorous songs as well. In the live show, the group utilizes a multitude of instruments, from the piano to the cajon to the darbuka, a Middle Eastern drum. Solos are often incorporated into songs to embellish their typically breezy studio counterparts.
Tryo is, above all, a joyous band. Their massive following, which numbers over 860,000 on Facebook alone, gives them a substantial platform in the French community. Thus, it is no surprise that they wrote a song in recognition for Charlie Hebdo. What is surprising, however, is the speed at which the song and video were assembled and posted onto the Internet. Posted on January 10th, “Charlie” has already accumulated 550,000 views, and that number is quickly growing.
The statement that accompanied the posting of the song reads (translated from French): “Tignous was our friend. We dedicate this song to his family and to all the victims of these terrible days.” Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac was a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo that was killed in the attacks. Regardless of how the members of Tryo knew Tignous, the dedication is touching.
The video for “Charlie” features cartoonists who are drawing satirical pictures. The first picture is that of a Frenchman who is lighting the nose (drawn as a bomb) of a terrorist, implying that the attack on France has backfired. The other drawings communicate ideas of similar potency, fitting the theme of the song.
The lyrics, sung over a steady reggae beat that reflects Tryo’s core acoustic sound, boldly states (translated from French), “Hey! Hey! Hey! I am Charlie! / Hey! Hey! Hey! Still alive.” Other strong lyrics allude to a positive future. “France has cried, Charlie / but your freedom, darling / it is immortal, you see it from the sky / the world is cruel, but life is beautiful.”
This song, while simple, is a commendable expression of the French mindset. Love will prevail. Goodness will prevail. I hope for a day when we don’t need songs to remind us of those things.