in Paris, hip-hop in the era of TikTok

Par Sevin Rey-Sahin et Solene Şahmaran Gün

Posted today at 3:00 a.m.

One Friday afternoon in the Marais district of Paris, two black dancers with two-tone braids stop in the middle of the street, in front of the crowded terraces. A sound system placed further away plays a piece from Destiny’s Child, the group in which Beyoncé emerged in the 1990s and 2000s. A circle forms around the duo, conversations stop, spectators draw their smartphones to film. The show begins. Saltos, freestyle, krump.

100 “Fragments of France”

Six months before the presidential election, The world paints a unique portrait of the country. 100 journalists and 100 photographers crisscrossed the field in September to portray today’s France. A nuanced picture, sometimes tender, often hard, always far from prejudices. These 100 reports are to be found in a large digital format.

Anderson Aron, 25, and Femi Akanho, 28, impress the small crowd with their agility. The cars wait, not the sound of a horn. Two octogenarians launch a « bravo » to one of the dancers. Since this summer, the tandem has been carrying out these street shows every day in the busiest places in the city center of Paris. At the end of their performance, Anderson holds out his beige bob to collect some coins and notes. In two performances, they can sometimes win up to a hundred euros for two. Money matters, of course, but so do the little videos they get out of it. “We just want to share our positive energy”, said Femi with a smile.

From left to right, dancers Anderson Aron, Junior Mbemba and Musa Jebbo Mageraga, alias Afro Spanish, on September 28, at the Trocadéro, in Paris.

These good waves, Junior Mbemba transmits them through social networks. The young man, 21, dressed all in red, slides on his gyroroue to join Musa Jebbo Mageraga, alias Afro Spanish, in front of the Paris City Hall. Together, they rehearse a simple and rhythmic choreography then publish the sequence on their TikTok accounts. “We choose songs of the moment and we do a choreography that others can take again”, expose Junior.

In July, the video of the latter dancing on the soundtrack of the cartoon Madagascar, I Like to Move it, has boosted the number of its subscribers on TikTok, which now reaches 2.6 million. Place Vendôme, Champs-Elysées, the Louvre… On the social network, each of its miniclips is set in an opulent Paris.

A long undesirable culture

Anderson Aron is from 20e, one of the districts of Paris most affected by poverty. Junior grew up in Deuil-la-Barre, in Val-d’Oise, north of the capital. For them, dancing in front of the Ritz is nothing special. “I’m just the guy who comes to put down his sound system to have fun and amuse others”, he sums up. A few decades ago, however, to invest in this way the courtyard of the Louvre, the Place Colette, where the Comédie-Française is located, the storefront of the Council of State … was unthinkable and could lead to identity checks, or even end with a strong invitation to evacuate the premises.

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