Pop Culture à la Française: L’Aziza by Daniel Balavoine

Pop Culture à la Française: L’Aziza by Daniel Balavoine


Sharing their daily lives with the French, AUCP students learn everyday language, but also everyday culture. And conversations are full of pop culture references that may escape outsiders. But we’re here to help! Our latest blog post series, Pop Culture à la française shares the must-know elements of classic songs, cult films, well-known figures in entertainment, trends, political gaffes and much more. Stay with us – we’ll have you winning French Trivial Pursuit in no time!

First up, is the song L’Aziza by Daniel Balavoine.

My host mom Nadia was a lively single mom with Algerian origins. Every Sunday, she started her day by doing le ménage, or housework – dusting, vacuuming, laundry. The best part about it was that she’d put the music on LOUD. She’d always start with l’Aziza, what I initially thought was just a cheesy-sounding 80’s song. But, she explained to me the weight of the lyrics set to this happy tune, and said that it was an anti-racist love song for a Franco-Maghrebin woman. Nadia cheerfully announced, »EVERYONE knows this song. » She added that the song may as well have been written for her, and then proceeded to dance around the apartment, cleaning and singing the words to l’Aziza at the top of her lungs. Every time I hear it, I think of her.

– Samantha Ferrier, Fordham University, AUCP Aix-en-Provence 2010


Daniel Balavoine

With an active musical career from  1975 to 1985, Daniel Balavoine was most known for his voice, with a rather impressive range of three octaves. A known activist, his music often touched upon real-life issues such as  famine, women’s rights in the Third World, racism, divorce, drug abuse, anti-war, torture and humanitarianism. Balavoine worked tirelessly with various charity associations to improve conditions in francophone Africa. He died in a helicopter crash in 1986, during a humanitarian mission in Mali, at just 33 years old. Following his premature death, sales exploded and his 1985 album Sauver l’amour sold over one million copies.

During his short lifetime, Daniel Balavoine wrote and composed more than one-hundred songs and remains today one of the most popular Francophone singers, with over 20 million albums sold. But don’t write him off as an 80’s pop star of the past, he’s much more than that. In 2003, he was the most played artist on the radio, averaging one song per hour. And, in a nationwide survey, he came in 19th on a list of the 100 Most Famous French People! Balavoine is still very much in the hearts of the French nation today.

L’Aziza

L’Aziza means « my dearest » in Arabic. A tribute to his Jewish Moroccan wife Corinne, the song was written to denounce the all-too common racist sentiments against North African immigrants in France. At the time, le Front National, France’s extreme right-wing political party, was gaining ground, and their anti-immigrant political stand worrried Balavoine. But he also criticized the leftist ‘colorblind’ trend, as demonstrated in this 1985 interview with Paris Match:

“Ce qui me gêne, c’est de chercher à faire croire aux gens qu’on peut mélanger les races sans qu’il y ait le moindre problème. Or, ce qui fait la beauté des races, c’est leur différence. Il y a un énorme fossé entre les races, mais il faut apprendre à le franchir. J’aime les Arabes, ce sont des gens fantastiques qui ont souvent bien plus de dignité que ceux qui en parlent de manière assez écœurante.”

It bugs me when people try to make others believe that all races can just mix without a single problem. Because their differences are what makes race so beautiful. There is an enormous gap between races, but we have to learn to bridge it. I love Arabs, they are fantastic people who often, have much more dignity than those who speak about them so disgustingly.

With his lyrics, « Ton étoile jaune, c’est ta peau / Your yellow star is your skin, » Balavoine makes a poignant reference to the Holocaust, when the Jewish were marked with yellow stars.  And his words, « Je te veux, si tu veux de moi / I want you, if you want me, » are a warm welcome to immigrants in France, if they want to come.

L’Aziza won a prize in 1985 from the activist group « SOS Racisme ». The song was released just three months before his death.

Petite rue de Casbah
Au milieu de Casa
Petite brune enroulée d’un drap
Court autour de moi
Ses yeux remplis de « pourquoi ? »
Cherchent une réponse en moi
Elle veut vraiment que rien ne soit sûr
Dans tout ce qu’elle croit

Ta couleur et tes mots, tout me va
Que tu vives ici ou là-bas
Danse avec moi
Si tu crois que ta vie est là
Ce n’est pas un problème pour moi
L’Aziza
Je te veux si tu veux de moi

L’Aziza
Si tu crois que ta vie est là
Il n’y a pas de loi contre ça
L’Aziza
Fille enfant du prophète roi

Et quand tu marches le soir
Ne tremble pas
Laisse glisser les mauvais regards
Qui pèsent sur toi
L’Aziza ton étoile jaune c’est ta peau
Tu n’as pas le choix
Ne la porte pas comme on porte un fardeau
Ta force c’est ton droit

L’Aziza
Si tu crois que ta vie est là
Il n’y a pas de loi contre ça
L’Aziza
Fille enfant du prophète roi

L’Aziza
Si tu crois que ta vie est là
Il n’y a pas de loi contre ça
L’Aziza
Fille enfant du prophète roi

A little street in the Casbah
In the middle of Casa (short for Casablanca, Ed.)
Little brunette draped in a cloth
Runs around me
Her eyes filled with, « why? »
Searching for an answer within me
She doesn’t want anything to be certain
In her beliefs

Your color and your words are all fine by me
Whether you live here or there
Dance with me
If you believe that your life is here
It’s not a problem for me
L’Aziza
I want you, if you want me

L’Aziza
If you believe that your life is here
There’s no law against that
L’Aziza
Daughter of (David, Ed), the prophet king

And when you walk at night
Don’t tremble
Pay no heed to the dirty looks
That weigh you down
L’Aziza, your yellow star is your skin
You don’t have the choice
Don’t carry it as a burden
Your strength comes from your rights

L’Aziza
If you believe that your life is here
There’s no law against that
L’Aziza
Daughter of (David, Ed), the prophet king

L’Aziza
If you believe that your life is here
There’s no law against that
L’Aziza
Daughter of (David, Ed), the prophet king


Pop Culture à la française just scratches the surface! AUCP core class French Cultural Patterns goes much deeper, giving students rare insight into the undercurrents of modern French culture. The class accompanies students in a cross-cultural analysis of values and assumptions underlying French language, behavior, and institutions. Students delve into intercultural communication theory, examine relevant French cultural materials and develop analytical skills and a cross-cultural perspective. In Marseille, the class expands its reach to examine the cultural undercurrents of francophone North Africa and the Middle Eastern immigrant population in France. To learn more about AUCP Course Offerings, click here.