When Jasmine Vegas steps onto the stage in Paris, she’s almost always armed with her shiny “suspender piano” (accordion), vintage cat-eye glasses, and maybe even a black panty-liner to match her black dress, as she once told a surprised audience when this short-lived feminine protection was first introduced onto the market. Just who is this provocative “Dada diva”?
Accordionist, singer, song-writer, fashion stylist: Jasmine does it all in spangled style and preferably while wearing a feather boa. In the eighties, her underground No Wave performances rocked New York’s East Village, and her label Guns and Butter featured her own stylistic creations.
But in the mid-nineties, Jasmine made her move to Paris. Here, she formed a first group known as Jasmine Bande. (If you don’t speak French, bander is the verb that means to get hard. Yes, you read that right.) A master – or shall we say mistress – of self-mockery, Jasmine also tours with various neo-burlesque performers (portrayed so well in Mathieu Amalric’s 2010 film On Tour, or Tournée).
- Jasmine Vegas
If you’re not familiar with the New Burlesque movement, one of the most well-known (and most brazenly self-promoting) stars in the U.S. is Dita Von Teese. But the divas I’ve seen on stage in the Cabaret New Burlesque take themselves far less seriously than Ms. Von Teese. While there are a few svelte women who take their effeuillage (literally “de-leafing,” a nice term for stripping) routine to perfectionist heights (or depths?), most of the acts involve ribald and offbeat humor, and not necessarily size-8 women.
Erotic fruit poem
Jasmine does capture that essentially burlesque style: eccentric, bawdy, and all about mocking the objectification of women through her over-the-top routines. But to describe Jasmine’s act simply as burlesque would be to short-change this multi-talented performer. As diverse as she is audacious, the “Dada diva” and “poetess of anti-prudishness” can shift from haunting Armenian-inspired songs to side-splitting bilingual acts involving both song and spoken-word performance.
Jasmine’s a regular on the local and French national music scene, and she even shares a song on her first solo album, Time, with the heavy hitter Jacques Higelin. She’s played all the best Parisian venues, like the Nouveau Casino or the 20th district’s very own Maroquinerie, and in summer festivals such as Quartiers d’Eté in Paris and at the Lieu Unique in Nantes. She’s opened for or played with other such influential French musicians as Arthur H and charlElie Couture.
But enough words, or at least written ones. If you like, go to Jasmine’s erotic fruit poem, in French, Comme un citron pressé — click on "Gallery" and then "Ecouter." If you listen all the way to the….well, to the poem’s climax, I promise you’ll never eat another kiwi the same way again.
Upcoming Jasmine Vegas shows include July 16th at Angora, and October 28th in Toulouse, at Le Bikini, where she’ll be opening up for the equally inimitable “Godmother of punk” Nina Hagen.
Thank you to photographer Valerie Archeno for providing the amazing photo of Jasmine Vegas and her original dish-glove hat. :)
Fruit smoothie with jasmine tea cakes
Since her artistic work comes from a nebulous creative zone, Jasmine likes to spend her free time on gratifying manual tasks like cooking. She often whips up this fruit smoothie, which she describes as “drippy, gooey, thick, creamy, and riiiiiiiiiich.” She uses an exaggerated arpeggio when pronouncing that last word. You can serve it that way yourself (or not), and you can also bake and serve the sweet little tea cakes I invented to accompany Jasmine’s refreshing smoothie.
for the smoothie:
1 pound (450g), or about 2 cups, washed, peeled/hulled and cubed seasonal fruit (I used strawberries, melon, apricots, and peaches, but you could also use some kiwi! qui ouiiii!)
¾ cup (180g) crème fraîche
OR ¾ cup (185g) yogurt
OR ½ cup (120g) almond milk
2 tablespoons (or more) sugar or honey, to taste
for the tea cakes:
3½ tablespoons (50g) milk
4 teaspoons loose jasmine tea (if your tea is in bags, you can just cut them open)
7 tablespoons (105g) unsalted butter, softened but not melted
¾ cup (160g) raw sugar
1¼ cup (160g) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
how to make it:
1. For the cakes, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
2. Bring milk to the boil in the smallest saucepan you have, or heat the milk in a small bowl in the microwave for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and drop in 3 teaspoons of the jasmine tea leaves. Stir, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes.
3. Strain the milk well, pressing slightly on the leaves to extract all the milk, and let cool completely.
4. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, using an electric mixer or a whisk if you’re making this in a tiny kitchen like mine. Add the eggs, whisking again just enough to blend, then add the now-cooled tea-infused milk. Whisk just once.
5. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder, and then add in the salt and remaining 1 teaspoon tea leaves, crushing them between your fingers as you add them.
6. Add the flour mix to the egg mix, stirring gently, just enough to blend the ingredients.
7. Bake in a well-greased mini-muffin tin or 1 to 1¾-inch (3-4 cm) flexible mold for about 15 minutes (time will depend on the size of your molds), or just until the cakes begin to turn golden on top and light brown on the edges. Let the cakes cool slightly (3 minutes), then turn them out onto a cooling rack.
8. To make the smoothie, use a wand mixer to purée together the fruit cubes.
9. Add the dairy (or dairy-like) product of your choice, stir well, and taste. If needed, add a bit of sugar or honey.
10. Serve the tea cakes with the smoothie for a refreshing afternoon snack!
makes about four 7-ounce (200g) smoothies and 45 mini cakes, depending on size of mold
note: To wash strawberries, dunk them, unhulled, into a bowl of cold water. Swish a few times, let sit for just a few seconds, and then scoop them out of the water. Then cut away the green stem with a knife. If you cut them before washing, water will enter the fruit, taking away some of that precious summer flavor.