Words and music
César Chouraqui in close–up. The 22–year–old actor and musician comes out of his shell Olivier Granoux
— As the first sweltering heat of summer descended on Paris, César Chouraqui shut himself away in the cool of a Left Bank studio. If this was a holiday, it was a working one: César was in the middle of recording his first album. After a memorable acting debut in The Origin
of Violence, directed by his father, Élie Chouraqui, it seemed César had his career all mapped out. Or not, as the 22–year–old now reveals his talent behind a microphone. This isn’t some passing fad, either. “My entire family is involved in film. My dad’s a director. My mum’s a screenwriter. I got into music from an early age. It was my thing, it belonged to me. Nobody at home played an instrument. It was like being in a bubble, where I could express who I was.” He grins, a brown–eyed handsome man.
His model good looks didn’t take him far on the runway. “I did one casting call. They asked me to dance. Don’t get me wrong, I love dancing. I used to do barre work, and I’ve done a fair bit of hip – hop, but I really couldn’t see the connection. So I turned round and left. That was the extent of my modelling career! ”
César was 11, at home watching TV, flicking through the channels when he happened upon a Queen concert. He was knocked for six, stunned by Freddy Mercury’s incredible stage presence. “I knew there and then that was who I wanted to be.” He was 13 when he started a band, The Crowns, and became close friends with the drummer, Aghiad Ghanem, who introduced him to Joy Division. This was yet another revelation for César, who has been an unconditional fan of Ian Curtis and his group ever since. The Crowns were just starting to make a name for themselves when they split. The brilliant Aghiad was too busy with his studies in international relations at the elite Sciences Po school in Paris; César, meanwhile, was taking the first steps in his acting career. Their musical adventure was put on hold.
In summer 2016, the two friends hooked up again, both still eager to make some noise. César had written lyrics for melodies he’d composed ; he let Aghiad tweak the arrangements. The songs came to life. They decided to call themselves Idem Colony, “after Colony by Joy Division. But also because it’s kind of a poetic way of saying “from the same place ”. For a band made up of a Syrian and a French Jew, it made sense.”
The pair were more motivated than ever. The next step was to find the right people to help them make the move from enthusiastic amateurs to serious band. Barnabé Nuytten, Isabelle Adjani’s son and a friend from way back, was also a musician. The éminence grise behind his group, The Aikiu, were a couple of up–and–coming producers. Introductions were made, everyone clicked. They laid down the tracks and shaped the Idem Colony sound, a romantic dovetailing of new wave and electric folk with hints of Bon Iver as well as Depeche Mode, Archive and MGMT. César’s deep, sensual vocals run throughout, clutching at the heart and devouring space. “I got my sister, an anthropologist, to sing on one track. I can’t help it, I love working with my family!” True to his word, he’s just finished his first screenplay, co – written with his mother.
This autumn, César Chouraqui is filming the screen adaptation of L’Homme Qui Ment, Marc Lavoine’s autobiographical novel, in which he plays Marc. He’s also intent on finishing this first album to then take it on tour. “It’s an album that’s meant to be played live. Concerts are very much a part of the concept. Maybe it’s down to my experience as an actor, but I’m not in the least bit intimidated by the idea of playing in front of an audience. On the contrary. We really hope to perform at a few festivals next year.” Between Aghiad, who recently published his first book on the Turkish Alawites, and César’s film projects, both can expect a busy schedule in the coming months. “Having to juggle the things you love, it’s not exactly what you’d call a hard life.”
Nubuck lambskin jacket with ribbed edging HERMÈS Own jeans and T–shirt