Barbara Pravi, a French artist and singer-songwriter of Serbian origin, presented herself to the Belgrade public at the city’s Botanical Garden on 28th June. This Belgrade concert, organised by the BELEF festival and the French Institute in Serbia, formed part of the celebration of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union
I feel connected to many things. I feel Serbian because I adore my grandfather, but I also feel like an Iranian because I love the poetry of Iranian poets. I’m in love with my family history. And I can also say that I belong to England, because I speak English, I love Italy, Spain… So, I really feel all that – explained Barbara Pravi on one occasion.
Believe it or not, but Pravi is the most current star of modern French chanson to be compared to the great Edith Piaf, and this singer-songwriter who represented France at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest – where she secured an enviable 2nd place behind Italian rock sensation Maneskin – has Serbian roots. Barbara’s father is of Serbian and Algerian Jewish descent, while her mother has Polish Jewish and Iranian origins. She adopted the stage name Barbara Pravi from the Serbian word “pravi” (meaning genuine or authentic), as a way of paying homage to her Serbian grandfather. She adores her grandfather and dedicated the song “Deda” to him, which she released three years ago.
Attendees of her concert at Belgrade’s Botanical Garden were able to see for themselves just how much Barbara’s presence on stage, spontaneity and sincerity during the performance are reminiscent of the French singing icon from the mid-20th century that was Edith Piaf. The Belgrade concert was organised jointly by the BELEF festival and the French Institute in Serbia, under the patronage of the City of Belgrade, the EU Delegation to Serbia and telecoms company MTS Telekom Srbija. This event formed part of the celebrations of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Barbara Pjević was born in Paris on 10th April 1993 to a family of artists and musicians.
“I feel connected to many things. I feel Serbian because I adore my grandfather, but I also feel like an Iranian because I love the poetry of Iranian poets. I am in love with my family history. And I can also say that I belong to England, because I speak English, I love Italy, Spain… So, I really feel all that,” she once said.
Barbara grew up in a harmonious and multicultural family. This open-mindedness lies at the heart of her education and ethos, representing an important feature that underpins her character, through which she very soon expressed a yearning for independence. However, her strong personality meant that her path to education wasn’t always as smooth as hoped. After graduating from school thanks to the help of a literature teacher, she applied to study law at Paris’s famous Sorbonne University, though with no definitive plan in mind. Two years later, she decided to drop her studies in order to follow a path that would truly inspire and drive her: music. Thanks to odd jobs working nights in bars and restaurants, she began producing her own music.
As she turned 22, she posted her first video directed with the help of friends. It didn’t take long for her to be spotted by Capitol and sign her first record contract with the prestigious label. she was then, in 2016, cast as one of the three main leads in the musical Unété 44. Barbara subsequently released her first EP, ‘Pas Grandir’, in 2017 and landed her first role as an actress in a TV-feature called La Sainte Famille, directed by Marrion Sarraut. It was shortly after this that she was picked by Florent Pagny to open for him 23 nights in a row during his 55 Tour. At the end of 2018, she changed her management team and began working with Élodie Filleul.
Barbara’s song won the 2020 Junior Eurovision Song Contest
After signing with Capitol Music France in 2015, she released four EPs with the label: Barbara Pravi (2018), Reviens pour l’hiver (2020), Les prières (2021) and Les prières: racines (2021). As a songwriter, Barbara has written songs for a number of artists, including Yannick Noah, Julie Zenatti, Chimène Badi and Jaden Smith. She also composed the song J’imagine by Valentina, which won the 2020 Junior Eurovision Song Contest
It was in February 2020 that she co-produced and wrote the lyrics and music for her second EP, Revienspourl’hiver. She has since collaborated with many artists, including Yannick Noah, Julie Zenatti, Chimène Badi, Jaden Smith, and written songs for Carla (Bim Bam Toi) and Valentina (J’imagine), thanks to whom France won the 2020 Junior Eurovision Song Contest. She released her own reinterpretations of the songs Kids, and Notes pour trop tard, as well as her new song Chair.
Barbara represented France at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Voilà, securing 2nd place – France’s best result since 1991. Her debut album, On n’enferme pas les oiseaux [We don’t lock up the birds], was released in August 2021 and served to prove that this woman, as a slightly eccentric singersongwriter who has been capturing the attention of the music scene for some time, has indeed taken flight. Over eleven tracks, Barbara sings about her own evolution and her view of society. Without a war of the sexes, and with a good dose of gentle optimism.
The album opens with Voilà, a vibrant and powerful expression of the singer’s talent. A cry from the heart, this piano-voice-cello waltz, which has become the French anthem of Eurovision 2021, is a naked exposé, but also a plea for fans to gush over.
This is followed by Le Jour Se Lève, a bubble of intimate love with a deconstructed syntax: “I don’t know what it is, I don’t know where it will go, what makes us like each other,” which oscillates between wonder and questioning. And then L’homme Et L’oiseau, a bittersweet observation of a hopeless romance.
Barbara’s lyrics are full of poetic flourishes: “Les rideaux volent en dessins/Sur mes murs blancs un peu jaunis/Comme un soupir tu as filé/Au beau milieu de notre nuit” (The curtains fly in drawings/On my white, slightly yellowed walls/Like a sigh you’ve gone away/In the middle of our night) and vivid, sparkling feelings, glowing tones and even a prayer (Prière Pour Rester Belle), where agnostics can unite in chorus. There is also a tidal wave of rage that overcomes her and deposits her body on dreaded shores. Coloured notes like the birds she draws with gouache, chords that slip in behind the scenes like film music.
If one had to pick an outstanding moment, it would have to be the intensity and interpretation of La Ritournelle. This piece, which links Pravito to her Alzheimer’s-afflicted grandmother, who is alive but already so far gone, was recorded in a single take. We look forward to hearing it on stage one day… In the meantime, we’ll listen to it over and over again, flying high, seeing that the world is rather beautiful from up there.
Barbara has collaborated with many artists, such as Yannick Noah, Julie Zenatti, Chimène Badi, Jaden Smith, and also writes songs for Carla (Bim Bam Toi) and Valentina
Completely authentic, Barbara Pravi insists on freedom. She regularly uses her platform to denounce violence against women and is very vocal about defending women’s rights. In 2018, she and 38 other women took part in the recording of Debout les femmes, the official song for the French Women’s Liberation Movement (Mouvement de Libération des Femmes). Barbara has since been invited to speak during celebrations of International Women’s Day on 8th March. On International Women’s Day 2022, Pravi released a new song called Priére pour soi (Prayer for yourself), and on 10th April this year she received a gold disc for “Voilà” exclusively in France.