There are so many ways for creating connections with people. June (@JuneCaravelMusic) is a French woman that has been travelling since she was very young. She thinks that languages are useful not only for communicating with local people, but also for understanding their culture. And music, that always conveys emotion in any language.
Music is a language in itself. It removes all barriers. It conveys emotions that are unexplainable with words. But singing in the native language of someone else, always gives an extra something to your performance. Because they can understand you. They might interpret what you say in their own way. But you give them an extra invitation into your journey.
Younger, when I was living with my parents and as an adult, I had the chance to travel a lot. My parents would always take me to different places. Mostly in Europe but I also remember going to the US when I was 10. So travelling has always been part of my life and I always enjoyed discovering new cultures and all the things related to them.
I’m also bi-cultural, my mother being Italian and my father French. So I was always up for learning languages. I even consider it courteous to try and learn even a few words in the language of the country I’m going to. It is a very symbolical sign for me. That shows you’re doing an actual step toward the inhabitants of the country you’re going to and you’re trying to actually understand their culture. So much culture goes through the way people express themselves. Discovering idioms in different languages has always been a real pleasure. Now that I know 4 languages, it’s always funny to compare expressions and what they tell you of the other culture. Also I love European languages. As they almost all (except Basque and Hungarian) have these Roman roots in common it’s so incredible to track down how each accent changed the original form into its own. Accento, Accent, Akzent. Guess which language is which (Beware, there’s a trap as one is for 2 languages but said in 2 very different ways).
One day I received an email in Spanish and was amazed to discover I could get 60% of it without using Google Translate. Same when I last went to Portugal. I was trying to read the Portuguese version of a touristic sign without reading the English one and was amazed to understand the bulk of it. Now if they talk it’s a whole different story. The accent is almost impossible to understand for me. But I could maybe get away with reading the press.
People are always very happy when you try and speak their language because it relieves them from the pain to find a way to communicate with you. And it really shows you’re taking the pain to communicate and blend in.
I used to work in WHSmith, an English bookshop in Paris. There, I would see American or English expats who would pride themselves in not learning French. They were only in Paris for a year or two so why the hell bother? I always felt this was wrong. How could you understand French people and their humour and culture without at least trying? I spent 3 months in Korea to study when I was 23 and always regretted not being able to do more than count from 1 to 4 (hana, tul, set, net), say hi (Annyon Haseyo), hello (when you answer on the phone : Yoboseyo) or say my name (can’t even remember that one now). I learnt how to read though but as the words were totally alien to me I had no way to know what they meant even though I could pronounce them. It was only useful when I arrived in a city to check on my guide that the name written was my stop. But at least I tried and when I last saw Korean people in Paris a few months back and could say hello in their language they just couldn’t believe it and I think that gives people a sense of pride too. That you took the pain to learn their language and consider it as important. As for me I’m very proud too to be able to speak 4 languages fluently and even want to learn Spanish and Portuguese before the end of my life. Maybe not fluently but I want to make sure I can begin to understand something and make myself understood next time I go.
Now I became an artist when I was 20 and I think every time that I would be in a foreign country and there was a piano somewhere or a karaoke night, I would always try and get a go at singing and/or playing. I did sing in China in 2002 in one of these informal occasions, then in Korea at an actual battle of the bands in 2003 and then in NYC at an open mic night in 2004. The first official invitation to travel with my music was in 2008 at the « Sellabration » directly going to Amsterdam at one of its most well known venue to perform with my band. It was crazy to meet all these fans who had participated to financing my album « And maybe a tree will rise out of me… » at the time. I had the opportunity to come back to the Netherlands many times after that and I always loved the vibe there is in other places of the world. When I was last ovationned like a superstar in Bangladesh in March 2018 after belting a cover in French, it was such a wave of happiness from the audience and cheering that I just wanted to laugh as this was so disproportionate. I had never experienced an ovation until there and don’t know if I even deserved it but I can tell you, it sweeps you off your feet. I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face the whole day after that and I’m happy I put a smile on the face of these Bengali students studying French too.
I realized pretty late in my musical career that it was my ultimate goal. Give an emotion to people. Make them laugh, smile, clap, dance and even ovation if they wanted as long as it came from a place of emotion. And that can be done in every language. After all I bought albums by Lura who sings in Cape Verdean just because the girl is majestic on stage and I have no idea what she says. But she conveys an intense emotion of joy, which I find again every time I listen to her. Same for Bebel Gilberto or Compay Segundo. I can guess some words here and there but not enough to understand. And still the voice, the music, the arrangement is there to fill me (I wrote feel me first ahah) with emotion.
Travelling is synonym of adventure
For me travelling is always synonymous with adventure. From the moment you get in the car, bus, train, boat or plane there’s a chance you might be late. You may experience delays, cancellations, encounter people you might never have encountered otherwise. Even if you planned everything you know that there can always be something that doesn’t go according to plan. I had this working holiday visa for Australia that I took back in 2011 to go with my then boyfriend and stay there for a year. We ended breaking up and I thought this might be my only chance to go there. So I contacted one of my best friends Gaëlle Buswel to go with me. It was one of her dreams to go there and I thought we could film one another performing in the streets and do a little road trip. But she cancelled about a month prior to our departure. So I decided to carry on with the filming project and I found a girl to film me.
Before going I had a lot of issues with men. What people seem to have discovered with #metoo, I endured for years in Paris. Always being chatted to (and not nicely) in the streets, harassed or sometimes even touched (breast, bum) in the train stations or at public concerts. This left me with some kind of distrust in humanity and men in particular. I kind of thought at the time all men were sexually violent and unable to control themselves. Sure I had experienced 2 societies where this never happened (South Korea and England). But I still wasn’t convinced it could exist elsewhere.
So deciding to go to Australia with another girl I didn’t know and leave the credit card behind to only survive off donations and the generosity of people was more than a bet. It was a leap of faith in humanity. And God knows how I wasn’t disappointed. I had organised in advance where I would stay thanks to the couchsurfing website and well, men were always willing to host us. So I was afraid as always that there would be some kind of sexual advances there. And at the exception of one guy who I told my misfortunes in Paris and said « You can touch girls without going to prison? Where do I sign? » (Needless to say we were gone in the morning), I almost only found incredible gentlemen, always ready to give a hand, pick us up, cook for us when we had nothing for dinner, shelter us and even give us theatre tickets or rollercoaster tickets. All of them were single and I always wondered if the atmosphere would have been the same had I been alone. But I really want to thank them cos they are the ones who gave me my faith back in mankind and showed me how decent a lot of men are. Without counting all the people in the streets. Children, women, men who gave me something. Money, food, a warm smile or thumbs up. Some of them danced or sang along. They all made the journey incredible and unexpected. I still have a hard time to believe we made it to 6 big cities in Australia only with what I earnt and I could pay food and transport for both of us.
Now that I have a child and that I realize the ecological impact of travelling, I’m not prone to travel anymore that much. Besides I discovered that what I love best is writing songs. That’s my inner travel to get out an emotion I sometimes didn’t even know I had in me. I still travel though, mainly to perform and do things for my musical career. And no year is really complete without going to Italy at least once for me. The food, the culture, the language, I love it all.
I booked gigs in Germany, Belgium and I’m going to reunite with Katie Ferrara in LA at the Sync Summit in December. That’s something I love. We wrote a song through Skype together even though we don’t know each other. I tell her I might come to LA for the sync summit and ask if she would be willing to host me and she says yes. I know I would do exactly the same for her should she decide to come to France cos that’s just how it is. You always want to help the travellers. Maybe that’s why tourists always come to me in Paris when in search of something. I may have a head that says, « Go ahead. You know you found someone who’s willing to help. »
This is “Senigallia” from “Boogie-Woogie Style”, the album that June released in 2016
You can read the Italian version of this article on PHI Foundation website