Last Thursday, I attended Late Night at the Loeb, a weekly event that extends the museum’s hours and highlights art, music and culture for students and the surrounding community. That evening, the French Club and Late Night staff collaborated to bring Vincent Dupas, a French singer that goes by the name My Name is Nobody, to the Loeb. Dupas’s beautiful vocals in both French and English gave each audience member a sense of warmth and compassion in somber times.
Vincent Dupas has been performing under the name My Name is Nobody since 2002. Growing up in Nantes, France, Dupas was surrounded by American music, which drove him to perform predominantly in English for most of his career.
Recently, however, he has began exploring singing in French and broadening his sound. Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Anne Brancky met Dupas while studying abroad in Paris and the friendship developed further while she taught English in French public schools after graduating college. Brancky commented, “It’s kind of an interesting question, the way a lot of musicians whose native language is not English choose to perform in English to reach wider audiences.”
Brancky was one of the key organizers of the event and once she found out that Dupas would be in New York for a week, she brought up the idea of him coming to Vassar to the French club. She said, “I thought it would be a cool opportunity for my students and students in the department to interact with someone who is not far from your age that plays music in bands and travels a lot. I like that the event is small, intimate and student-organized.”
What separates Dupas from other performers most noticeably is his ability to perform in two languages. While others stumble attempting to, Dupas possesses the same grace and effortless nature as he transitions from English to French. During the transition mid-way through the show, he jokingly said that he would forget the lyrics, but that was nowhere near apparent during his set in French.
Dupas’s intersectional music ties in to the Loeb’s mission as a museum. Loeb Student Committee Member and French Club Co-President Matthew McCardwell ’17 coordinated the event with Brancky after coming back from studying abroad in France. He commented, “I think this is a really beautiful opportunity to have multilingual music in the galleries, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. It is important to think about different cultures and remind students that we are bigger than Vassar, Poughkeepsie or America because the art on the walls are. The point of the Loeb is to find intersectional ways to engage with the art and have interesting dialogues, so our programming should reflect that as well.”
In reference to having Dupas perform, McCardwell continued, “We are trying to show that learning and understanding a language, and all of the culture and history that comes with that, is an art of translation involved in translating one’s mind into a French mind or in a francophone context.” Dupas’s music perfectly intertwines the duality that all language students experience and certain students that are bilingual encounter in their daily lives.
Dupas has released five albums, with all of them being in English. In contrast to the folk/ rock that encompassed the first four, the newest album is much more ambient and meditative. The album’s title, “Safe Travel,” is indicative of its laid back and spiritual nature. He predominantly performed songs from this album at the show and his soothing vocals and instrumentals filled the room. Deep into the show, one could hear a pin drop. All that could be heard in the Loeb were the echoes of Dupas’s beautiful voice and the strum of his guitar.
Dupas performing that night was especially important to me in light of recent events. Vassar has been somber since the election of Donald Trump on Nov. 9, and you can feel the uneasiness in every room you walk into. Each campus member has attempted to deal with the outcome in the best way that they can. Yet, while I was listening to Dupas’s set, I was not thinking about the election. I was not thinking about how scared I am for the future and for those close to me. I was thinking about the music.
Dupas’s music fit the atmosphere of the Loeb perfectly, with his guitar and mellow demeanor. During a break in his set, Dupas said, “Music is good to make people feel better. That’s what I want to do for you. We have experienced similar catastrophic situations in France and we’re still alive. We have to go on.” The audience went silent, but seemed to take in Dupas’s kind words in a similar way to how we have been taking in everything since Tuesday night.
In the future, I hope that the Loeb continues to collaborate with different language programs on campus in order to tie in many themes that students encounter in their daily lives. It facilitates important conversations in regards to music, culture and art.
Brancky closed by saying, “I think it’s really interesting to think about the way that we interact with in particular French cultural artifacts, in this case music, and the way that, from his perspective, the way the exchange between learning songs in English and French works between the two languages/cultures.” In light of recent events, it is pertinent that we continue to appreciate and embrace other cultures and art forms, which includes the multilingual music of Vincent Dupas.