The 39-year-old French artist plays the guitar and sings in a wedding dress on the streets of Paris, usually near the Sacré. Coeur basically in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris. This year, for the first time, Eli has been authorized to perform on the Paris metro after successfully completing the “Musiciens du metro” (Metro musicians) audition. Every six months, a casting audition is held to grant accreditation to 300 artists to perform on the Paris metro, known locally as the “metro”.
In the mornings, Eli Jadelot sells pastries in a Parisian bakery. In the afternoons, he takes off his apron and dresses as a bride, to sing to the busy commuters on the subway. Jadelot is part of the “select” group of 300 traveling musicians who have official permission to sing in the corridors of Parisian underground transportation.
“I don’t see it as a springboard, but as another way of making music, in a different environment,” explains the 39-year-old, who moved to Paris 16 years ago, hoping to earn a living as an actress. “I want to see how I do in a place where people are just passing through. Will they notice me or not? she explains, as she prepares to sing her own compositions at the Saint-Lazare station, one of the busiest in all of Europe.
Given the proliferation of amateur musicians -some without much talent- the public company that manages the Paris metro (RATP) decided 25 years ago to grant permits to a maximum of 300 applicants. Every six months, a jury made up of RATP workers listens to a thousand applicants, and selects about a third. They can play in the aisles, but not on the platforms or on board the carriages, although this last rule is very often violated by other musicians without permission.
Jadelot ran for the RATP selection last year, and his compositions earned him a quick permit. The artist dresses in a white wedding dress that a friend lent her, a detail that surely contributes to her success.
“She’s fabulous, with her wedding dress and her charming smile,” confesses Cherif Medouni, a teacher who often spends a few minutes with these traveling musicians. The RATP jury does not rule out any instrument, says Stella Sainson, responsible for awarding the precious title of “Musician of the Subway”.
“Although some are difficult, like the djembe, which resonates strongly” in the corridors of the subway, he acknowledges. Arnaud Moyencourt has earned the right to play the barrel organ in the metro since 1992. “He represents the Paris of a lifetime,” says Sofia Tondinelli, a member of the jury. “I would definitely stop to listen to it,” she adds.
Camille Millian opted instead to cover the late American soul star Whitney Houston to renew her license. “The subway is one of my favorite places,” she says. Riana Rabe entered the contest for the second time, with a melodious rendition of a song from the Disney movie “Mulan” and another by the Radiohead group, equipped with an electric ukulele. “People have always intimidated me, but now I’ve discovered that they can be extremely friendly,” she explains.
Ukrainian violinist Anna Leonid Byulaj won permission with a performance that includes jumps, while Hugo Vaxelaire delighted the jury with his nyckelharpa, Sweden’s national instrument, similar to a vihuela de arco. Others weren’t so lucky, like another less than ukulele player, and a 28-year-old Chinese violinist with big glasses and too shy.
“Singing in the subway is very nice, but sometimes it’s also complicated because people are immersed in their thoughts. You have to know how to capture the attention of travelers”, explains Tondinelli. Some itinerant musicians even managed to rise to fame, such as the folk singer Zaz, the accordionist Claudio Capeo and the pop group, which went through the French version of the television musical contest “La Voz”. But those are the exceptions of a trade that is not well paid. “If you have a good day, you can get 25 euros (27 dollars),” reveals Jadelot.