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French Accordion

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So, your character visits France. Chances are that they will visit Paris (often an idealized/cliché version of it, and nothing else, because France is Only Paris), eat delicious French cuisine like frog legs and escargot, and drink lots of wine... and all of these scenes will usually be accompanied by cheerful accordions.

Despite originating from Italy, these instruments became really popular in France in the 19th century, and soon, cafés and cabarets in the country were filled with the sound of these instruments. During the 1930s, the accordion-heavy bal musette became incredibly popular, and this music style is linked to traditional France in the collective mind to this day. It isn't rare to find beggars or street artists playing accordion in the Parisian subway or in the streets even now (though it can be rarer in other French cities).

On a side note, accordion is part of some non-Parisian French regions' traditional music such as in Alsace (where it sounds closer to Polka and German brass band music, for historical reasons), but it's as rarely featured in fiction as non-Parisian areas of France are, and thus bal musette/waltz-style accordion music dominates in fictionland.

Despite the tendency to associate accordions with France/Paris, the instrument is far from exclusive to that country. Louisiana French culture is well-known for accordion-heavy music such as Zydeco, and you're likely to hear accordions in the musical theme of a Ragin' Cajun when it's not fiddling. Certain styles of Mexican music, most especially norteño, also make extensive use of the instrument. South American countries like Brazil or Colombia and most especially Argentina with the tango scene, as well as Eastern European countries are rather fond of it as well, but this fact isn't as widely known as France's case. The largest non-French accordion usages most people are likely to recognize are polka music, tango music and sailing music.

Sub-Trope of Regional Riff.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Since a good chunk of Noir is set in Paris, Yuki Kajiura unsurprisingly used a lot of accordion for its soundtrack, with the tracks "Fake Garden" and "Solitude by the Window" standing out the most.
  • Speaking of Yuki Kajiura, she also uses a lot of it in The Case Study of Vanitas which is a show that fully takes place in France (mostly in Paris).
  • Invoked and Played for Laughs in the Pop Team Epic's "Japon Mignon" gag series, in which Popuko and Pipimi go to France and test all the French clichés, including the accordion as the background music in all the gags.
  • On Hetalia: Axis Powers, France's Leitmotif is accordion music. In the song "Hatafutte Parade" he mentions playing the accordion.
  • Hiroyuki Sawano is well known for putting two different song compositions onto one track. Promare provides us with "fanFAREpiZZa". The first half of the song is a triumphant-sounding fanfare as the name suggests, but at the 1:32 mark of the song, the french accordion is mixed with Drum and Bass to give an energetic and lighthearted Hip-Hop feel that is played when the main cast is enjoying themselves at an Italian pizzeria.

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat Fun Class: Travel Around the World episode 12, which takes place in France, ends with a song whose instrumentals heavily utilize an accordion.

  • Bill Bailey's routine on sirens includes a piece of jaunty accordion-like music which he claims is the sound a French ambulance makes if you listen to its siren carefully.
  • From French comedic duo Les Vamps, you have "La Vampada," a "Lambada" parody set to musette.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Aristocats is set in Paris and features accordion music when the cats are walking on the roof at night.
  • In The Incredibles, the appearance of Bomb Voyage, a French Enemy Mime, is accompanied by dramatic accordion music.
  • In The Little Mermaid, the chef Louis is introduced with accordion music. Cue the Gay Paree clichés.
  • Occurs in Looney Tunes: Back in Action when the scene shifts from Area 52 in the United States to Paris. Along with the accordion tune, there are also artists with easels, street mimes in striped shirts, and Roman Catholic nuns shepherding identically dressed schoolgirls. It's as though France mandates this stuff.
  • In Monsters, Inc., an accordion riff can be heard when Mike, Sully and Randall open a closet door that takes them to Paris.
  • Ratatouille is set in Paris. Michael Giacchino's score was his usual orchestral style, but with added accordion parts in several tracks, most notably the main theme "Le Festin" (which even got an accordion-solo reprise at the end of the "End Creditouilles" medley).
  • Rugrats in Paris, being set in the City of Love, is scored with accordion music throughout, but most notably when Spike, the Pickles family's dog, has dinner behind an alleyway with a poodle.
  • In Finding Nemo, an accordion riff plays when Jacques the shrimp is introduced, establishing, along with his accent, that he is French.

    Films — Live-Action 

French films:

  • Amélie features a lot of musette in the soundtrack to evoke a timeless mood, befitting a story set in a Magical Realism Sugar Bowl version of Paris.
  • Holy Motors features a scene of a group of accordion players playing their instruments in a Paris church.
  • The opening and main theme of Is Paris Burning? includes accordion music.
  • Paris 36: A good part of the soundtrack is made of accordion, for obvious reasons. The son of the main protagonist also plays accordion for busking purposes while his friend sings.
  • While it isn't set in France, The Professional does count since the film's soundtrack uses the accordion for the more emotional or lighthearted moments between Leon and Mathilda. It also helps that the director and composer of this film are French.

Non-French films:

  • Night on Earth takes place in several different cities (Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki), with a similar-sounding piece of music playing during the establishing shots. The soundtrack on the Paris segment includes accordions.
  • In Private Benjamin, the titular character is asked where she wants to be stationed, as they have bases all over the world. The next scene is an establishing shot of Paris, complete with music.
  • In The Return of the Pink Panther, Inspector Clouseau is sidetracked by a blind accordionist with a monkey (or "minkey"), distracting him from the bank robbery taking place next door. Chief Inspector Dreyfus later berates him for this, saying that the blind accordionist was actually a look-out man for the gang that robbed the bank.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!, set in World War II France, had its theme tune as an accordion based piece. Occasionally within the show the character of Le Clerc would play an accordion as part of a ridiculous disguise.
  • Interview with the Vampire (2022): The "Loving Lestat" promo is set to accordion music to enhance the fact that the character is French.
  • The main theme of the Paris-based French Police Procedural P.J. features a Sinister Tango Music-like take on the instrument to emphasize the show's serious tone.
  • In Poirot, the episode "Murder on the Links", which is set in France, features accordions playing the series main theme in several parts.
  • One episode of Sliders had the cast travel to an alternate Earth where the USA were very much influenced by French culture. Their arrival into this universe was heralded by accordion music.
  • The episode "Family" from Star Trek: The Next Generation saw Capt. Picard go to France to see the titular family. And to let the viewer know it's France — cue the accordion.

  • Unsurprisingly, some of Édith Piaf's songs, such as the waltz-like "La Foule" or, more à-propos, "L'Accordéoniste".
  • Edward Maya uses accordions in his Dance songs to create a romantic feeling. He used it most in "Stereo Love", featuring singer Vika Jigulina.
  • The Bonzo Dog Band's "meet-the-band" parody The Intro and the Outro introduces a succession of increasingly unlikely guest artists - a snatch of musette introduces
    Digging General de Gaulle on accordion. Really wild, General. Thank you, sir.
  • The very long LP track One Night In Paris from the LP The Original Soundtrack, by 10CC features, as you might expect, lots of accordion-like music.
  • "Au Revoir (Adios)" by The Front Bottoms is about a guy condescendingly using Gratuitous French to break up with his girlfriend. The variants of the chorus that use "Au Revoir" and the verse explaining it have an accordion riff in the background.
  • Havalina Rail Co. had an accordion player on their first album, but they mainly used that sound to play zydeco and American folk music. However, they also had one musette-inspired song, so they called it "French Theme."
  • Goth-country band 16 Horsepower covered a traditional French song, "La Robe a Parasol", with their guitarist playing Chemnitzer concertina (an instrument related to the accordion) instead. As a whole, the song is much more upbeat than the band's usual fare.
  • "French Letter" by New Zealand reggae band Herbs features an old-fashioned accordion, to underline the band's protests against French nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean during the 1980s.
  • Jacques Brel (who was Belgian but sang in French) sang "Vésoul", famous for the performance of its accordionist (named Marcel). Ironically, the song is about a Henpecked Husband stating how much he hates being dragged to Paris by his wife and hearing accordions.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Team America: World Police: The movie's first scene is set in Paris (albeit one populated by puppets) and is accompanied by accordion music.
  • In the Jean-Pierre Rampal episode of The Muppet Show, a sketch set in Paris features an accordian player serenading a couple at a pavement cafe. The man, Jacques, says that it's the worst accordian player he's ever heard, and the accordian player replies that Jacques has the worst French accent he's ever heard.

  • The trope is used for a joke in Tom Stoppard's radio play Artist Descending a Staircase, which consists of a sequence of nested flashbacks. At one point, one character begins reminiscing sentimentally, apparently about Paris, saying that memories can be triggered by "... a phrase of music ... a river flowing beneath ancient bridges ...", and the script then calls for "Cliché Paris music, accordion" and a flashback begins. But the next line is a different character saying "I must say I won't be entirely sorry to leave Lambeth— the river smells like a dead cat, and the accordionist downstairs is driving me insane".
  • The French Canadian series Les 2 Minutes du Peuple has a less-than flattering episode on accordions (according to which the accordion was inspired by several people farting at different pitches). It also goes into the different types of accordions, from cheap ones for children to decent ones for amateurs to hugely expensive ones for performers (all of which sound exactly the same), and where one can find accordions: in polkas, in waltzes, in tangoes, in trash cans...

    Tabletop Games 
  • The digital implementation of Ticket to Ride's France map has, unsurprisingly, accordions playing as the main instruments in it's quaint soundtrack.


    Video Games 
  • Several tracks playing in the Paris sections of Bayonetta 3 use accordions as part of their instrumentation.
  • Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3: The track "European Intrigue" features accordions at the very beginning, as Allied forces on this mission make their way up the Seine River through Paris.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: During the 2013 class revamp event for Accordion Thieves, players could encounter (and steal an accordion from) a Depressing French accordionist.
  • Chef Soulfflé is a French-inspired chef ghost hauting the Last Resort Mezzanine in Luigi's Mansion 3, and his battle theme is dominated by accordions.
  • Mario Kart Tour introduced the Paris Promenade racetrack, which runs past the French capital's main landmarks while a cheerful accordion musette is playing.
  • At some point in Octogeddon, the titular octopus is headed to Paris in a rampage to destroy the Eiffel Tower, and an accordion is prominently featured in the music during the underwater level on the way to the French capital.
  • While averted for a good chunk of Pokémon X and Y's soundtrack (which takes place in the heavily France-based Kalos), the music playing in both Camphrier Town and Couriway town is reminiscent of traditional accordion French popular music. Professor Sycamore's theme also heavily uses accordions.
  • Punch-Out!! has the French boxer Glass Joe's theme using an accordion.
  • Sid Meier's Pirates! has different background tracks for English, Dutch, French, and Spanish towns, with accordion pieces for the French ones.
  • The Sims 3 are a big offender of this trope: every single song playing in the French vacation spot Champs-les-Sims is a accordion musette. Then again, it goes well with the atmosphere of the little town, which is loaded with every French cliche in existence. Even the icon for the French music is a red accordion.
  • All sequences set on the Paris rooftops in Sly 2: Band of Thieves are scored with accordion-tinged spy music.
  • While the French-based Seaside Kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey is refreshingly subtle in its French references, based on the French Riviera instead of Paris, its bossa nova music manages to slip in an accordion part near the end of the loop. More characteristically, however, the Mario games use accordions for a more Italian-sounding Regional Riff, such as the cheerful piazza music that dominates Super Mario Sunshine.
  • In Team Fortress 2, "Petite Chou-Fleur" is a cheerful accordion theme that plays while the Spy (who is distinctly French) is reminiscing about his time with his sweetheart, the Scout's mother.
  • The music playing when a Mii takes a vacation in France in Tomodachi Life is as cliche as it can get. Naturally, accordions are heavily represented.

    Visual Novels 
  • Queen of Thieves: Season one takes place in Paris, the soundtrack for which includes accordions.

    Web Videos 
  • In asdfmovie13, a brief accordion riff plays when we are shown the French dog, which is also wearing a beret and a thin mustache.
  • The French amateur series France Five parodies Toku shows by setting a Sentai-style series in France. Mixing the two brands of clichés result in heroes such as "Red Fromage", "Black Beaujolais", "Yellow Baguette", "Pink à la Mode", and... "Blue Accordéon", who's The Big Guy and the fun one, occasionally seen playing the accordion.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Paris episodes of Let's Go Luna!, all the songs are accompanied by accordions. Although, the accordion is ironically a major plot point in an episode that takes place in Munich, Germany.
  • In Madeline, every episode opens with an accordion melody while showcasing Miss Clavel and her pupils on their daily walk around Paris.
  • In the second episode of Milo Murphy's Law, "The Undergrounders", Zack is revealed to be claustro-avoidant, and as he, Milo, and Melissa are trapped in a runaway metro wagon, Zack needs to be distracted in order to calm down. Milo's second attempt is to hang up posters of Paris, don a beret and play music on an accordion, leaving Zack too distracted.
  • The Simpsons: In "Homer Simpson in Kidney Trouble", one of the members of the "Ship of Lost Souls" is a Frenchman with an accordion (which he says he stole from a blind monkey).
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Le Big Switch" has SpongeBob traded for another, blatantly French chef. The title card, as well as the music playing in the fancy restaurant SpongeBob now works in (whose owner is named Le Schnook and has a heavy French accent), are almost entirely played by accordions.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog uses this as the musical motif for Le Quack, French criminal mastermind duck, and it recurs whenever the show visits France.

    Real Life