Arthur H

Born : 1966 in Paris (France)
Country : France
Language : French
Category : Composer / Male Artist / Songwriter
Style of music : Chanson

Despite an invasive artistic heritage, Arthur Higelin or H quickly disentangled himself from the “son of” label. Dipping into a wide range of musical pots for inspiration, both his repertoire and performances are stamped with unusual smatterings of poetry, stories and humour.”

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    Despite an invasive artistic heritage, Arthur Higelin or H quickly disentangled himself from the “son of” label. Dipping into a wide range of musical pots for inspiration, both his repertoire and performances are stamped with unusual smatterings of poetry, stories and humour.”

    Son of singer Jacques Higelin and Nicole Courtois, Arthur Higelin was born in Paris in 1966. A solitary adolescent with no great taste for his studies, he left school at sixteen and went sailing in the West Indies for three months. His parents then sent him to Boston in the United States, where he studied music at university for a year and a half, but without much interest.

    On his return to Paris, he started several bands with whom he played his first songs. But after a catastrophic début at the Printemps de Bourges festival, Arthur went back to the musical drawing board. Working his way through successive musical influences - Thelonius Monk, Tom Waits, the Sex Pistols, jazz, blues and the tango - he began to piece together a highly personal style.

    In December 1988, Arthur H and English bassist Brad Scott put together a show for a three night booking at a small (60 seat) venue in Paris, La Vieille Grille. The show was such a success, they stayed on for three months. Audiences took an instant liking to the young artist's blend of humour, music and poetry. Two months later, the duo, along with drummer Paul Jothy, did a thirty day season at the Sentier des Halles. Critics raved about the pianist, with his cracked voice and echos of Boris Vian, Serge Gainsbourg and Tom Waits.

    In August, following a tour in East Africa in April and May, Arthur H played in "Maman" a film by Romain Goupil starring Anémone.


    In February, Arthur H recorded his first album with friends Paul Jothy and Brad Scott, following this up with a series of triumphal gigs at the Théâtre de l'Hôtel de Ville in March and then a series of tours culminating, on July 18th, with the singer doing the first half of Barbara's concert at the Francophonies festival in la Rochelle.

    His first album "Arthur H", came out on September 3rd. Due to the promotional tours and rave reviews, it sold very well. Each of the thirteen tracks was a separate musical scenario, telling its own story in a fusion of jazz and pop.

    At the beginning of 1990, in the middle of the Gulf War, Arthur H played at Pigall's in Paris. His popularity was growing, even in Japan, where he received an enthusiastic reception in February.

    On April 25th 1991, during a radio programme, Arthur H performed live at Olympia in Paris with seven musicians - his trio plus a four-man brass section.

    The rest of the year was spent on tour for the most part, in France and abroad, ending once more in Japan on December 23rd and 27th.

    In April 1992, Arthur H and his band, still comprised of Paul Jothy, Brad Scott, and Jon Handelsman on brass, released the singer's second album "Bachibouzouk". This was followed by four dates at the Passage du Nord Ouest from May 12th to 14th. Brazilian percussionist Edmundo Carneiro joined them for these appearances and also throughout the 92 tour.

    Magic Mirrors

    In January and February 1993, Arthur H did a six week season at the Magic Mirrors, a superb circus big top made in Belgium in the twenties, in which he put on a musical show that was both moving and humorous, with a definite circus atmosphere. Shortly afterwards, he received the Victoire de la Musique award for most talented new artist of the year. Tours followed, in Africa in May and in Quebec and Japan during the summer.

    In October a live album of the Magic Mirrors concerts was released. To coincide with this, Arthur H gave two concerts at Olympia.

    In 1994, the trio continued to tour from town to town with the Magic Mirrors. In March, Ken Higelin directed a 26 minute film about his brother on tour.

    From 1989 to 1994, Arthur H gave more than 700 concerts and sold around 150.000 albums. Now an important artist in the French musical landscape, his magical world, full of surprises continues to attract a very wide public.


    1995 was a sabbatical year but also a family one with the birth of Arthur H's daughter.

    He was back in the limelight again in September 1996 with the release of his third album "Trouble fête". The disc's highly allegorical cover reflected its music, as remarkably imaginative and poetic as ever. From October to December, he went on tour again, and then, from January 8th to 18th 1997, he was back in Paris at the Gymnase, with a quartet and a show steeped in magic and dreams, leading his audiences towards freer musical horizons, towards a fusion of jazz, swing, musette, tango, African, oriental and gypsy music. A live album of the show "Fête trouble", was released in 1997. Some of the tracks had been recorded in Bénin and Togo in February and March, during his African tour.

    When he returned from Africa, Arthur H went on to perform a series of concerts in France in the winter of 97. The singer then enjoyed a few months of hard-earned rest, before hitting the road again in April 98 when he embarked upon an extensive American tour. After kicking off the tour with a concert in Puerto Rico (on the 14th), Arthur H flew back and forth between English-speaking Canada and the USA, performing in Toronto (on April 16th) and San Francisco (on April 29th). The highlight of the singer's American tour was his famous concert in Luna Park (Los Angeles) on April 24th. This concert was a momentous occasion for Arthur H - for, when the encores from that evening's performance died down, the singer married his bass-player Alexandra Mikhalkova live on stage.

    Monsieur H

    Arthur H came storming back into the French music news towards the end of summer 2000 with a fourth album entitled "Pour Madame X". Fleeing the aseptic hi-tech atmosphere of modern studios, Arthur decided to record his new album in a medieval castle in the middle of the French countryside. Featuring Arthur's habitual trio - Nicolas Repac on guitar, Brad Scott on double bass and Laurent Robin on drums - the eleven tracks on "Pour Madame X" were infused with the usual 'chaotic' H style. Indeed, lyrics verged on the incomprehensible on the mysterious 8-minute rap track "Haka dada". On the whole, "Pour Madame X" turned out to be much more sober and austere than Arthur's third album - and more sentimental too perhaps (following the recent break-up of his marriage).

    Before setting off on tour again in November 2000, Arthur H made a guest appearance at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, performing musical accompaniment to a silent movie classic from the 1930s made by Tod Browning.

    He also wrote his first soundtrack for Michel Couvelard’s film, "Inséparables". Arthur H made a few stopovers in Paris, and performed in Italy with the singer Gianmaria Testa on January 11th. He then flew to Asia, and did a gig in Laos on June, 21th, and another one in Thailand a few days later.

    Touring around until the end of the summer, he performed in Quebec in July for the Summer Festival and in Montreal for the Francofolies. In August, he walked onto the stage with his father. In August, he walked onto the stage with his father for a concert duly entitled 'Father and So' in Uzeste.

    During the rest of the year, the singer enjoyed a period of rest. In 2002, he progressively started working again, taking part in a few ventures with such friends as singer Brigitte Fontaine—when he did a piece during her show at the Grand Rex in Paris on March 24th 2002—or accordionist Marc Perrone. In June 2002, he released a new album "Piano Solo", which he had recorded live but in a studio. The album featured a new, and very sober, interpretation of his repertoire with only one piano as accompaniment. It also included the previously unreleased covers of two songs that were both originally written by women: "Nue au soleil" (Naked in the Sun) and "The Man I Love". Shortly after the release, Arthur H gave an exceptional concert at the Bataclan in Paris on June 26th.

    Eventually going back to songwriting at the beginning of October, Arthur H called for his usual companions, Nicolas Repac and Brad Scott, to give him a hand. Together they recorded "Négresse Blanche" at the singer’s residence in Montmartre and mixed it in New York. Released on May 13th 2003, the album was composed of 13 tracks dedicated to the memory of famous women such as "Marilyn Kaddish" and "Bo Derek". "Nancy and Tarzan" was chosen for the first single. The experience resulted in a rather down-tempo album, trying to find its way being electro and pop music. 

    As soon as June, Arthur H went back onto the stage for a series of gigs. Alone with three musicians, he performed at the Bouffes du Nord in Paris and at a few festivals including the Vieilles Charrues in Carhaix. Then in August, he flew to Montreal where he played at the Francofollies on the 1st.

    2005: "Adieu tristesse"

    Arthur H was to have embarked upon a major tour of China (4 - 14 November 2004), stopping off for performances in Beijing and ShanghaÏ. But the Chinese authorities refused to grant the necessary permits and the tour had to be cancelled at the last minute. The singer headed off to Canada instead, playing a series of concerts there and then headed into the studio to record his fifth album, "Adieu tristesse."

    Released in September 2005, the 13-track album was hailed by many as the most accessible of his career and proved to be a huge hit in sales terms. "Adieu tristesse" included three duos. The first, "Est-ce que tu aimes?", was to have been recorded with Camille, but the young singer’s hectic schedule meant she had to turn the invitation down. So Arthur H called in his old friend M instead. (Incidentally, the video clip to this song won him a coveted "Victoire de la Musique" award for "Best Video Clip of the Year" in 2005). The second duo, "La Chanson de Satie", featured superbly sensual guest vocals from the Canadian singer Feist laid over one of the famous "Gymnopédies" written by the late great French composer Erik Satie. And last but very much not least, Jacques Higelin joined his son in the studio for a father-son duet on "Le destin du voyageur."

    Arthur H hit the road between September and December 2005, touring the length and breadth of France and putting in memorable appearances in Paris (at Le Bataclan on 17 October and the Olympia on 8 November). He also performed at a number of major music festivals including the Printemps de Bourges, the Paléofestival, in Nyon, Switzerland and at the Francofolies in La Rochelle, before heading off to play dates in Canada, Poland and Lebanon.

    On 27 March 2006, Arthur H celebrated his 40th birthday performing a special one-off concert at the Olympia, in Paris, where he was joined on stage by his father, his French buddy M, his English friend Brad Scott and his half-sister Maya Barsoni. In May, he kicked off another tour, playing concerts across France and a handful of dates abroad in Lebanon and Canada. For the Fête de la Musique 2006, Arthur H brought the house down in the courtyard of the Palais Royal, Paris, then hit the festival circuit for a series of shows including the Furia Sound Festival and the Francofolies in La Rochelle and Spa, Belgium. This thirty-date schedule kept the singer busy until October 2006.

    The tour ended with a rousing finale in New York, one of Arthur H's favourite stopping-off points in the world.

    13 November 2006 saw the release of "Showtime", a live album and DVD released on Polydor covering the long months Arthur H and his troupe had spent on the road presenting "Adieu Tristesse" to fans. The DVD was packed with 210 minutes' worth of images showing the singer throwing himself into his shows body and soul for a series of no-holds-barred performances at venues including the legendary Olympia in Paris and Le Spectrum in Montreal (where he performed at the FrancoFolies festival 2006). "Showtime" also featured a series of duos: "Est-ce que tu aimes?" with M, "Le Destin du Voyageur" with his father, Jacques Higelin, "Une Sorcière bleue" with Maya Barsony, "Sous le Soleil de Miami" with Pauline Croze – and last, but very much not least, "On Rit Encore" with Lhasa.

    At the beginning of 2008, Arthur H was invited to organise a special audio-visual project, "Duos éphémères", at the Louvre. The singer was given 'carte blanche' to take a selection of silent movies from the archives and get together a group of musicians and DJs to invent modern-day soundtracks for the films. The "Duos éphémères" performances, organised at the Louvre between January and May 2008, included appearances by Rubin Steiner, Nicolas Repac, David Walters and Le Ukulélé Club de Paris.

    2008: "L'Homme du monde"

    In June 2008, Arthur H re-emerged on the recording front with "L'Homme du monde", the seventh album of his career. The album, produced by Jean Massicotte, found Arthur moving away from the rock/jazz ambience of his previous albums and abandoning his usual piano keyboards in favour of guitar riffs. Arthur H's music had, up to this point, been renowned for its introspective, melancholy edge, but "L'Homme du monde" saw Arthur exploding with musical energy, groove and 'joie de vivre.' The eccentric lyrics on his new album were still written in a very poetic vein, however. The singer admitted that his radical change of musical direction had partly been inspired by the birth of his son (in 2007) and a significant thaw in the frosty relationship he had maintained with his own father. The first single release from the album, "Dancing with Madonna", was accompanied by a zany video of Arthur flying around in a Superman outfit.

    Arthur continued his audio-visual collaboration on his new album, inviting the young American film-maker Joseph Cahill to make a series of short films bringing the characters he had imagined in his songs to life on the screen. The short films were made available to fans in video form on the DVD accompanying the album.

    Before setting off on another major tour in October, Arthur H put in an appearance at the "Francofolies" music festival in La Rochelle in July 2008. Here, he took part in a tribute concert to the late great French disco king Claude François, sharing the stage with a host of other well-known artists such as Kent. 

    2009: "Mystic Rumba"

    2009 got off to a flying start: Arthur H received the Victoire Award for best pop/rock album for "L'Homme du monde" in February. To create his next record, he shut himself up in the middle of winter in La Fabrique studio near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. He sat down at his piano and launched himself into a minimalist exploration of twenty-one of his songs ("The Lady of Shangai", "Adieu tristesse", etc.) and invented three more. His solitary quest resulted in “Mystic Rumba”, a double album released in March 2010. With its pared-down, possessed atmosphere, it is a good way to rediscover the different nuances of the singer’s rocky voice and especially the odd cinematographic poetry of his lyrics.
    The "Mystic Rumba" tour was as spare as the disk. It started in February and took in the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris on 10, 12 and 14 March 2010.
    In 2011, Arthur H started work on a new album and “opened up the kitchens” to the public at Cent Quatre in Paris early that summer.  
    During a tribute evening to the Martinican poet Edouard Glissant at the Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris, Arthur H read a selection of black poetry, an experience that inspired him to launch himself into a new adventure. Helped by his friend and musician Nicolas Repac, he thought up a show based on Afro-Caribbean literary works, both narrated and set to music. “L’or noir” saw the light in July 2011, with several follow-up performances.

    2011: "Baba love"

    On 17 October 2011, Arthur H released the album “Baba love”, and set up his own production and publishing company for the event. Instead of working with his usual musicians, he formed a new team comprising Joseph Chedid on guitar, a rhythm section played by Aymeric Westrich and Alexandre Angelov from the groups Aufgan and Cassius, and Vincent Taurelle, pianist for Air amongst other things.

    His new rush of energy saw him record some emotion-packed, poetic numbers that convey a sense of newfound confidence. The singer’s warm, powerful voice confirms his position as master of the art. A clutch of guests feature on the album, including the actor Jean-Louis Trintignant ("L'Ivresse des hauteurs"), the US hip-hop star Saul Williams ("Basquiat"), and his half-sister Izia.

    On 27 October he gave a concert at the CentQuatre in Paris. 

    In November, Arthur H set off on a fresh tour of France, taking in New York on 22 February 2012, swiftly followed by Montreal and Quebec. 

    "L'or noir", the show dedicated to Caribbean writers and created with his friend Nicolas Repac, was the object of a disc released in March 2012. The album inaugurated the collection Poétika Musika which presented poetry set to music by the two acolytes. From 15 January to 3 February, the two artists presented a musical reading of “L’or noir” at the Théâtre du Rond Point in Paris, followed by numerous French towns.
    The second set of this series was released in March 2014 and entitled “L’or d’Eros”. This time round, Arthur H and Nicolas Repac focused on 20th century erotic poetry, with the words of George Bataille, James Joyce, André Breton and Paul Eluard, among others.
    These two musical creations, "L'or noir" and "L'or d'Eros", were presented in public at several concerts, including at the CentQuatre in Paris on 20 and 21 May.
    2014: "Soleil dedans"
    Project-thirsty Arthur H was back in September 2014, this time with an album of original compositions. For “Soleil dedans” he opened up his horizons and took inspiration from the wide-open spaces of Quebec and the American West. The album was recorded in Montreal, where the artist reunited with his “big soul sister”, the singer Lhasa, who had died in 2010. He worked in a duet with Patrick Watson (“Le tonnerre du coeur”) and asked François Lafontaine from the group Karkwa to help on production. Unusually for the singer, the bright melodies were carried by some high-flying vocals.
    The album won the Académie Charles-Cros award in November, in the chanson category (jointly with Jeanne Cherhal’s "Histoire de J.").
    The singer’s poetic voyage with Poétika Musika left its mark and influenced his own writing. In the middle of his “Soleil dedans” tour in May 2015 he published a collection of poems entitled, "Le cauchemar merveilleux" (the wonderful nightmare), a series of short stories with a surreal atmosphere.  
    May 2015

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