Roman, our son, was three years old: an age when children begin to enjoy hearing songs involving finger-play, dandling and jogging on their parents’ knees, short fables, counting songs, funny songs, nonsense songs, and lullabies – i.e. those simple songs that give our language its affective roots…
I searched my memory for something to use, but could find very little hidden in its recesses. Why this empty space, this black hole? Why this part of my past that had been insufficiently developed? So we set out as a family to visit regions with minority languages, where people still fight to preserve an imperilled culture. We went to the Basque Country, Catalonia, Corsica, Brittany, and, in our own country, Walloonia. Our search, which may at first have seemed quite insignificant, enabled us to go beyond prejudices and, above all, to be surprised by people who live only a stone’s throw away from our home. Those people sang for Roman with a childish familiarity and naturalness that delighted them and gave an unsuspected richness to what they had to say. We are not ethnomusicologists, we are children who have grown up unaware of our roots and have set out to find what we missed.
Let us think of ourselves: when we are very old, what will we have to sing to our grandchildren? And now, what do we sing to them? What did our mother sing to us, or our grandfather? Let us try to remember!
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