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France's new music ceremony Les Flammes celebrates rap and R'n'B shunned by mainstream awards

Aya Nakamura performs during the 36th Victoires de la Musique, the annual French music awards ceremony in 2021
Aya Nakamura performs during the 36th Victoires de la Musique, the annual French music awards ceremony in 2021 Copyright Francois Mori/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Francois Mori/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
By Katy Dartford with AFP
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France has long been the largest market for rap outside of the US but it has been noticeably absent from the country's mainstream awards.

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The first awards ceremony in France for rap, R&B and Afrobeats music will be held in Paris today, to celebrate creators in these 'popular cultures' that have previously been 'minimised' in the country.

The event called Les Flammes comes four years after the greater Paris area was deemed the world’s most successful city for hip-hop by US hip-hop magazine DJBooth.

Les Flammes has been organised by two media companies, Booska-P and Yard, to recognise and celebrate the culture that "grows out of working-class neighbourhoods, and the creativity of the people" that make it.

According to DJBooth, the authority in hip-hop website, France has been the largest market for hip-hop outside of the US for decades, but "an unprecedented rise in domestic rap over the past five years has firmly entrenched rap français as the country’s most popular genre of music".

Despite this, rap has been noticeably absent from France’s mainstream music awards. Organisers of Les Flammes awards want to rectify this, naming the event after a source of light, illuminating "these cultures in the shadow areas that have often been left far from the spotlight in France today".

"That's what was missing: rap, R'n'B and new pop dominate the charts, dominate festival line-ups, inspire pop culture like rock did before, but aren't rewarded as they should be," explains Tom Brunet, co-founder of Yard

The ceremony will take place at the Châtelet Theatre and is being supported by Spotify, which has an official playlist for the awards.

The three-and-a-half-hour event, including 14 live performances, will be streamed on YouTube and the live-streaming service Twitch from 8:30 pm CET. Among the performers are Meryl, Kerchak, Gazo, Kalash and Enchantée Julia and the show will be compèred by comedian and actress Fadily Camara.

"We will have on stage, an opening performance, unreleased songs, songs that we don't necessarily expect, with a rhythm and an energy in the image of this culture that we want to celebrate” said Hamad co-founder of Booska-P.

The voting process

Nearly 135 thousand people voted on the social networks of Les Flammes in the 13 categories (out of 21) open to public voting.

Their vote counts for 50 per cent in most categories, with the rest decided by a gender-balanced jury made up of representatives from record companies, the entertainment industry, public figures, and journalists.

Nominations for the Female Artist of the Year include Ronisia and Aya Nakamura, one of the most streamed francophone artists in the world.  So La Une feature in the male category and heavyweights like Booba are in the Concert of the Year category. 

The rap album of the year category will see Dinos, Gazo and SDM competing for the top prize.

“After all these years of waiting for this kind of ceremony, it is good that people with the necessary wisdom and foresight have been able to set up this event ”, said rapper Dinos. " The recognition generated by the Flames could change a lot of things in rap in France," he added.

Other favourites include Damso, and Tiakola, a rapper from Paris whose album 'Mélo' ranked ninth on the best sales of the year 2022.

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