Thomas Dutronc: Jazz, java and a Buddhist note

- through Sophie Solere

Published on

Star of the French jazz scene, handling both swing on the guitar and caustic refrains, Thomas Dutronc has made his life a playground. The son of Françoise Hardy and Jacques Dutronc has followed a singular path, immersing himself as a teenager in the gypsy community to get closer to the master Django Reinhardt, discovering with his mother the ways of faith and the afterlife, contemplating, in the wake of his father, the nature and the beauties of the island of the same name. Buddhism, spirituality, benevolence, environment… We took advantage of the release of his new album, Frenchy, to lead him to other scenes.

Your mother was marked by two books by Matthieu Ricard: Infinity in the palm of your hand, a conversation book with astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan, and The monk and the philosopher. Did she introduce you to spirituality?

It's true that if my mother was a fan of Matthieu Ricard, my father was quite a fan of Ricard (laughs). Yes, she introduced me to these thoughts a little, she read Carlos Castaneda a lot to me when I was little, but also The Little Prince. For me, this novel is one of the texts that elevate the soul and the spirit, in a poetic way. Finally, my mentor is Georges Brassens, much more than intellectuals and religious. He explained that you can't tell people how to think, that you shouldn't impose anything on them. He had a little anarchist philosophical side that I really like.

I love this Buddhist quote: “The smile you send comes straight to your heart”. She inspires me. My spirituality is trying to make an effort to be nice, to smile, not to be angry, to stick to one's self... In Paris, you come across a lot of violent, angry, arrogant, presumptuous people... But why? would the human being be more important than a dolphin or a bird? We are very intelligent monkeys, we have been able to develop extraordinary techniques, but what poetic value do they bring? A very small part...

Like Buddhism, you do not believe in the concept of a creator god. What is your vision of faith and spirituality?

I read a book from Dalai Lama, in which he explains, I am schematizing, that it is a good thing that some Westerners are interested in Buddhism, but that they already have their own religions to pray and rise spiritually. I think this is good advice.

I never went to mass when I was a child; when I went there later, I didn't really like it. I prefer Blues Brothers masses, with gospels; the liturgical music that accompanies our Catholic masses disappoints me a bit, except when it comes to a mass by Johann Sebastian Bach, which is unfortunately quite rare. One day, I played in an evangelist mass with my gypsy friends; I was both very surprised and touched by the communion, by the fact of seeing all these faithful people come together to celebrate the love between human beings. It was a very moving moment, with lovely music.

I have the impression that religions belong to other times, when we still took the time to live... Today, we would almost have to do express masses on smartphones, but, of course, it's not like that we could feel the love that emanates from it. Going back to my vision of Buddhism, which I do not practice, I see it as a religion that advocates love between human beings, but also with nature.

The title of your 3rd album, Eternal until tomorrow (2015), perfectly illustrated the concept of impermanence, dear to Buddhists. Living here and now: is this one of your credo?

It was a question of illustrating the carpe diem and this quote from Aragon: “The time to learn to live, it is already too late”. It's about life and death… I loved my grandfather very much, he left when I was 31; I was able to spend a lot of time with him, he was a delightful being. A few years after his disappearance, one summer, I experienced an ordeal, I was sad, I remember crying, which almost never happens to me. The next day I went to my favorite beach in Corsica, near my home, and suddenly I saw a dolphin jump in the air and dive back down. The mathematician in me would say it's a matter of probability, but that day I had the impression that my grandfather was giving me a sign.

I'm a rather scientific person, in the sense that I see the divine in nature, in the infinitely large and the infinitely small, physics, biology. However, I find that the "classical" religions have cut themselves off too much from this link to nature. What I like about religion is the love, the hippie side of Jesus Christ, of Buddha… I loved the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.

The famous Tibetan master Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, who like you is a fan of rock music, recalled in the magazine The Point in 2012, "that to be a Buddhist in the XNUMXst century is first of all to be a rebel", which goes with develop kindness and compassion. What do you think ?

These are values ​​so important, beautiful and fundamental, that we are always afraid that they will disappear. We must avoid falling into the “It was better before”. Take the example of the Egyptians who, in antiquity, created these magnificent pyramids, at the cost of human sacrifice. Back then, human life had no real value. History is a perpetual massacre.

"I love this Buddhist quote: 'The smile you send comes straight to your heart.' My spirituality is trying to make an effort to be nice, to smile, not to be angry, to stick to one's self…”

Today, we live in a capitalist system, which is, as Churchill said, "the worst of systems, to the exclusion of all the others", but which, despite everything, allows the creation of wealth and the elevation standard of living in the world. We can't go back, go back to living in caves and hunting mammoths – besides, I remind you that there are no more mammoths (Laughs). We must not deny progress, the discoveries of science are exciting, we simply have to be careful in their use. The man has gained wisdom. Even if at the moment there is a particular movement with all these countries electing extremist presidents… But these are periods and, in the end, we can hope that the curve of humanity will continue to climb. It all depends on how you see the world, the glass half full or half empty, but what is certain is that everyone must make an effort. Personally, it was at the age of 17-18 that I started thinking about these questions: what kind of person, of human being do I want to become? I said to myself that I had to constantly make an effort to smile, to be courteous, to think of the other… It is enough for everyone to make this little effort for it to reflect on their neighbour.

In your albums, you have often mentioned our inability to live in the present moment (songs "Longés dans l'herbe" and "We don't know how to get bored anymore"), but also our upset relationship with nature ("I like Paris more", "Come to my island".) Are you an unknowing Buddhist?

Maybe… This relationship with nature is very important to me. We observed it during confinement: when we are in the middle of nature, connected to the earth, we feel good, it's magic! Trees and plants are living beings just like humans. Why make classifications? I love going to Corsica, because there is the sea, the mountains, the countryside, the maquis… When I go to the mountains, I breathe, I'm happy. Cities are human creations that tire and drain energy. Unfortunately, I don't have a Buddhist side at all, because if I see a spider, I want to crush it. They scare me. But I try to improve myself, I tell myself that they are friendly, that they participate in the ecosystem and that by eating mosquitoes, they help me by preventing them from biting me. So I'm trying to overcome my arachnophobia, but I'm not a great master yet! (Laughter)

Like Sting, Marianne Faithfull or Leonard Cohen who was a Zen monk, many musicians use meditation, even Buddhist retreats, to rebalance oneself in the face of this permanent whirlwind that is the life of an artist. Is this an experience that appeals to you?

I have never been on a spiritual retreat, but I visited a magnificent monastery in Florence, with works painted by the great Renaissance masters in the tiny monk's cells. It made me want to spend two months there after the tumult of this “artist's life”. This type of experience makes me dream, but I sometimes live it, in my own way, when I leave to isolate myself for a month in Corsica, like next August… Even if there are friends passing through. Or when I take walks in the mountains during the Christmas holidays, when Corsica is almost deserted. I like this idea of ​​retirement, without a cellphone, and I would dream of spending a week in the desert, alone, even if I would be afraid of being kidnapped by bandits (Laughs).

This discipline, mental, is the aspect that interests me the most in religions.

Which song reminds you of Buddhism?

The one that comes to mind, and I don't want it to come across as insulting, is a song by my dad called "Hippie Hippie Hooray", in which he kindly pokes fun at hippie fashion. , in the second degree. He had joined two strings of his guitar in the same place to create a strange sound, like koto, while singing: "I like flowers and smoke, I am no longer a rebel". I am also thinking of the titles "Imagine" and "Love" by John Lennon, lyrics full of love and serenity, something calm, long and enveloping...

And the song from your new album likely to appeal to a Buddhist?

I would say that it would not be a piece, but the whole album, this very dear to Buddhists, it seems to me, created by the osmosis of the musicians.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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