popular dance "Musette" is also a typically French style of
music, born in Paris itself to be precise.
In fact, it's the result of
the influence of different cultures introduced by musicians and by
fashion: Auvergnats (people from the Auvergne region of France),
Italians, Manouches (people who roam, similar to gypsies), Americans,
These cultures also subsequently enriched the
style, known the world over, is often better recognised outside France
than in France itself.
is nevertheless a part of french cultural heritage.
musette is often associated with the accordion and dancing.
saying this word, one dreams of small dance locales, guinguettes (cafes
with music and dancing, often in the open), waltzes and the banks of the Marne river, but one
also thinks of "Apaches", "Casque d’Or" and crooks...
appearance of the ("modern-style") musette is contemporary with that of
jazz at the beginning of the 20th century.
It grew deep roots towards 1880 at the heart of the Auvergnat and Italian communities gathered
name comes from an instrument: the musette.
Similar to the bagpipes, it is composed of an interchangeable pipe with several pierced
holes and a bag of air.
a bellows pumped under the right arm, the musician fills the airbag
placed on his left and, by pressing on the bag, causes the reeds of the
bourdon pipe to vibrate.
hide of a "cabri" (young goat) is used for this reservoir of
air : this is why the musette is sometimes called a "cabrette".
place where one could dance in town, with at least one musette playing
the tune in the band, thus naturally became a "bal-musette"
term probably appeared towards the beginning of the 19th century.
the dawn of time
the beginning of the 18th century, public dance-halls developed,
particularly on the outskirts of the then Paris.
the "Fermiers Généraux" (tax collectors) built a wall around Paris to
better collect taxes and control contraband, the dance-halls found
themselves separated from one another by "barriers" (Ramponeau
barrier, Ménilmontant barrier, Belleville barrier, etc;)
The term "barrier" infers "taxes" and thus "trafficking"...
neighbouring cheap eating houses were subsequently invaded by a
population of all types of petty traffickers.
The Parisians would come at the end of each week for entertainment and to
dance to the sound of the musette, but also to the violin, the
hurdy-gurdy, the cornet or the clarinet.
1795, there were 644 dance-halls of different types in Paris.
are the names of some of the famous dance-halls of the 19th century :
du Grand-Turc, boulevard Barbès
du Prado, across from the Palais de Justice
musette Dourlans, today called the Salle Wagram
le père Dénoyez, rue de Belleville
Bal Mabille, rue du Mont-Cenis
Cambon, rue de Lappe...
to us !
can't talk about the musette without mentioning the Auvergnats (people
from the Auvergne region of France) and the Italians.
in the beginning, the term "bal musette" meant the places where
the musette instrument was played, it rapidly came to refer to all
establishments where one could dance, regardless of the instruments used.
This generalisation provoked the anger of the Auvergnats, defenders of
Founder of the "L'auvergnat de Paris"
newspaper, at the end of 1895
Traitors against the Auvergne and the Colony are those who use legal
means to try to substitute your good cabrette in public dance-halls by
German or Italian instruments thus provoking the closure of all the
musette dance-halls in Paris of which they would already have succeeded
in changing the character
President of the association
"La Cabrette", January 1896
« There, where the accordion and violin have replaced the musette, where
uproar has replaced the bourrée (a dance)...is also where open laughter
has been replaced by the knife.
them, the musette dance-hall should be reserved for the musette!
Following a complaint by Louis Bonnet to the Prefect of Paris, some
"musette" dance-halls are closed down.
are only allowed to re-open if they call on musicians who play the
here's the whole story in chronological order...
largely present towards the end of the 18th century as knife sharpeners,
coppersmiths and crockery repairers..., the Auvergnats settled in Paris in
ever-increasing numbers between 1800 and 1900.
Arriving at Austerlitz
station, they were initially to be found in the 5th, 11th and 12th
districts of Paris.
in business, they quickly specialised in scrap iron, catering, cafes and
For entertainment, the community opened small dance rooms in the
back rooms of cafes.
so one began to talk of streets such as the rue au Maire, rue de Lappe,
rue Sainte-Maur, rue de Charonne, rue des Taillandiers, rue de
Montreuil, rue de Charenton or the Thiéré Passage...
In these cafes,
at the beginning of 1900, one danced (particularly Saturday evenings and
Sunday afternoons) the "bourrée" to the sounds of the "musette" and the
"grelottière", a bracelet decorated with little bells which
the musicians attached to their ankles.
pleasant atmosphere and music of these "musette" dance-halls, often
called "Family dance-halls" drew large numbers of Parisians and
latter, at the end of the 19th century, arrived en masse at the Lyon
station and settled in the neighbouring districts.
The Carrara, Peguri and Coia families (among others) made the rue Curial
district) resonate to the sound of their accordions.
Italians, with their diatonic accordions, were initially quite well
accepted by some of the musette players.A few years later,
when they attempted to introduce new dances into the dance-halls and, thanks to the change to the mixed accordion (half diatonic,
half chromatic), to make the music evolve beyond the capacity of the
cabrette, a conflict erupted.
danced the bourrée, the waltz, the polka, the march...
situation worsened again towards 1900 with the appearance of the
chromatic accordion and its fantastic possibilities.
Rupture was inevitable.
Italians leave to play in new locations which they insist on calling
"Musette", characterised by the presence of the accordion,
drums and the "waltz".
comes quickly and reaches all of Paris since the accordionists create a
completely new and attractive repertoire.
accordion becomes the preferred accompaniment of singers, moves onto the
street and thus becomes more and more popular.
then was the true birth of the Musette genre.
Present throughout Paris,
the "accordion" dance-halls finally passed beyond the barriers,
spread through the suburbs and into the country except for..."a
small region which still resists, and will always resist the invader"
(the Auvergne region, of course!).
Even so, the Auvergne later succumbed
due to the diatonic.
are some names from this era:
Antoine Bouscatel, born 9th March, 1867
for his great dexterity in playing the cabrette
Beginning of the 20th
century, managed the "au Chalet" dance-cafe (13 rue de Lappe)
1904-1905 : first "official" meeting of the musette (Bouscatel) and the
Instant and immense success
under different names (the "bal Bouscatel", "Chez
Bouscatel", the "Bousca-bal") until 1950.
Charles Péguri, born 30th October, 1879
Came from a family of four brothers, all accordionists
on the diatonic accordion
legend for this instrument
with success, with Bouscatel
his life in misery
Emile Vacher, born 7th May, 1883
accordionist gifted with an amazing memory
his life, played a "mixed" model accordion
considered to be the creator of the "Musette" style
Martin Cayla, born 23rd June, 1889
between the diatonic accordion and the cabrette.
dance-halls and theatres closed during World War I.
the end of the war the masses needed entertainment, thus many dance
establishments opened : "musettes", "guinguettes", dance-halls, etc.
this period, one finds three types of establishments sharing the term
"Bal Musette" ("Musette" dance-halls) :
the "bal des familles" (Family dance-hall), typically
Auvergnat, where one still saw some cabrettes
the "bal musette populaire" (Popular Musette dance-hall),
where sometimes the java dance is forbidden (!!!)
the "guinche" (just a place to
dance), more or less seedy,
order to experience a "shiver of fear", the classiest of the
bourgeoisie sometimes went and mixed with the "masses" in
these often dingy and sordid places.
led to a theatrical element in certain dance establishments (particularly
in the Bastille area) where, up until World War II, one could find "fake crooks", "fake police
raids" and "fake gunshots"
for the benefit of
for the music, the accordion quickly and definitively "shrugged
off" the cabrette.
began to appear in many music and dance events.
even became an integral part in groups playing tango and then jazz, new
successes which spread throughout France (from 1910 onwards and for
several years thereafter).
so one danced the tango, but also the foxtrot, the java, a polka
variation, the mazurka, the one-step, the paso-doble, the beguine... and
the waltz of course, which characterized the "Musette".
are the names of some of the famous dance-halls and dance
establishments in Paris and its suburbs, during the first half of the
20th century :
Chalet, rue de Lappe
Boule rouge, rue de Lappe
Barreaux verts, rue de Lappe
Bal Chambon, rue de Lappe
Bal Vernet, rue de Lappe
Petit Balcon, Thiéré Passage
Le Bousca, Bastille area
Petit Bousca, rue de la Huchette
Les Grav', rue des Gravilliers
Petit Jardin, avenue de Clichy
Chez Charbonnel, Bastille area
Bal Nègre, rue Blomet
Bal Ramponeau, rue Ramponeau
l'Alcazar-Nation, boulevard Voltaire
Valence, 6 rue de
Bal des Bossettes, sentier des Bossettes, Ivry
Le Balajo, rue de Lappe
Boléro, boulevard de Belleville
Ca Gaze, rue de Belleville
Bal Saint-Fargeau, rue de Belleville
Coupole, Montparnasse district
Coupole, Montmartre district
Petit Robinson, Alfortville
Chez Grosgnier, La Varenne
Java, Temple suburb
Jouas, rue Polonceau
far as instruments were concerned, one should note the supreme presence
of the accordion in the groups and orchestras, and also that of the
drums (called "the jazz") which, by audibly marking the beat,
helped dancers to better feel the rhythm in the dance-halls of the time
which did not have sound systems.
stringed instruments, the banjo appeared followed by the guitar with its
Manouche and Gypsy influences...
Swing-musette was born at the beginning of 1940 with a repertoire of
waltzes allowing for rich improvisation...
by little the groups filled out with the addition of the mandolin, the
bandoneon, the clarinet, the trumpet, the saxophone...
the beginning of its peak, the accordion was the symbol of the Musette.
of the notable musicians of this epoch were :