The Wandering Minstrel on Metro Line 4

Helena Archer
March 11, 2013

Paris is known as a lot of things; the City of Lights, the City of Love, the fashion capital, or Paname (less common for non-French people). However, spend a day there and you’ll discover what’s even more present than sparkly towers, eccentric outfits, and overly affectionate couples: street music.

Paris is overflowing with wandering minstrels, some solo acts, some small troupes, and, if you’re lucky, an entire band. Perhaps it would be better to say “metro music” as the majority of these players pass by the obstinately grey Parisian sky in favor of its bustling underbelly. So, imagine yourself in a black coat, scarf, and beautiful shoes, snagging the last open seat in the car when you hear the all-too-familiar “Mesdames et messieurs, votre attention s’il vous plaît.” The faces of others on the metro vary between confusion (likely tourists), piqued interest (likely visitors or foreigners), and subdued exasperation (likely Parisians). If you’re in one of the first two groups, you may turn around to see:

An accordion! The image of a classic French accordionist is very real, and frequently, very loud. There are two accordion shops, right next to each other, across from the IES building.

A karaoke performer! Yes, people do drag small machines on the metro and croon a lilting melody to the backdrop of American “easy listening” music.

A pair of Spanish guitarists! Incredibly in sync and stable for the buck and sway of the metro, particularly admirable on Line 4.

A small orchestra! Usually composed of two to three members, although you may also hear a solo violinist or trumpeter.

And if you’re especially lucky (and this has only happened to me once), you may see a full-blown mariachi band! How they got so far from Mexico, I’ll never know, but it was probably the cheeriest metro ride I’ve ever had.

The music isn’t exclusive to the metro cars; it resonates through the subterranean corridors, it twirls by as you sip in a café, it even crosses the Seine. While showing a friend around Paris, we ended up by the most decorated love lock bridge in Paris, where a group of at least 10 young men were playing various instruments, including brass and drums.

I don’t know how Paris compares to other cities in terms of musical prevalence, but I don’t know that I find myself in deeper agreement with Ella every day.

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Helena Archer

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Helena Archer is a sophomore at the University of North Carolina studying public health, international studies, and creative writing. She loves all three, and is thrilled to be able to develop her interests abroad. During her semester in Paris, she hopes to engage and immerse herself in French and Parisian culture, and also to examine immigrant and francophone presence and relations. Helena loves hearing and telling stories, and can&#39;t wait to discover more of them in Paris.</span></p>

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