Pipers unite against white supremacists
Pipe players of Brittany on Sunday united against a group of US based white supremacists who are campaigning to discredit the French region's top piper, who happens to be a black man.
Hundreds of traditional musicians from Brittany's top pipe bands, known as Bagadoù, convened on the town of Brest for the region's most prestigious championships on Sunday.
They were joined by thousands of fans in showing their support for Yannick Martin, a 24-year old virtuoso of the bombard, a double reed instrument from the oboe family, who has twice been crowned Brittany's champion player.
Mr Martin has been the target of a hate campaign by a Houston-based white supremacist website called Breiz Atao (Brittany Forever), the name of a Breton nationalist journal that supported Nazism in the second world war.
In a post called "le biniou et la bombarde" (a play on words for bagpipe and "wog"), commentators claimed that "an extra-European will never be a real Breton. Whether it pleases people or not, we've never seen black Celts." The site also included a provocative video later removed.
Mr Martin, born in Columbia but adopted and raised by a Breton family, has filed for charges of "racial discrimination". His brother, adopted and raised by a different family is also a top pipe player. Both play in one of the region's most acclaimed bands, Kemper, which competed in Brest yesterday.
Before the competition, Mr Martin said: "I've been judged by the colour of my skin by people who are totally out of touch with today's Brittany. I feel entirely Breton and my response will be to continue to play."
"It is by mixing that Breton music will evolve; the more it moves in that direction, the more enriching it will be." On Sunday, around 2,000 players and fans wore the double ribbon sporting the Breton colours "gwen ha du" (black and white) in a poignant protest at the racist slur.
"These comments shocked a lot of people," said André Queffélec, president of Bodadeg ar Sonerion, which represents 10,000 Breton pipers. "Rather than having everyone demonstrate separately, we decided to unite everyone to send a strong signal."
The Breton Democratic Union (UDB), the main autonomist and regionalist party in Brittany, denounced the attack. "The defence of the Breton cause has very unfortunately been hijacked by a minority of frustrated individuals with scandalous views about our Breton citizens of foreign origin. To be Breton has nothing to do with blood or the colour of your skin, it's not a question of a Breton 'race' but of a Breton people rich in its diversity," said the UDB.
The anti-racist league Licra has also filed for charges of racism.
Brittany is currently enjoying a pipe band craze, with almost all Breton towns having their own Bagadoù, which play traditional, dance and contemporary music and compete in a series of annual competitions.