Sunday, 8 February 2015

Quebec - Playlist

I've listened to lots of great music during the time I've been researching and blogging about Quebec, so here is my Quebecois playlist.

Reflektor (2013) by Arcade Fire

I've become quite a big fan of Arcade Fire, although I'd never really heard their music before I started researching for this blog.  I discovered them just before I went to Canada, in fact, so as I was listening to this song on repeat, as I was whizzing through Montreal, past the factories and over the Jacques Cartier bridge to Longueuil.  Arcade Fire are from Montreal and are very much part of Quebec's 'Anglo' culture, although some of the lyrics of Reflektor are also in French.  I love songs that work on different levels and, for that reason, Reflektor really does it for me!  I hope you like the song and the rather disturbing video!

On ne change pas (1999) by Celine Dion

I've never been a massive fan of Celine Dion. Whilst it's undeniable that she is one of the most popular singers the world has ever known, I've found her music a little cheesy and too 'pop-machine generated'. Having said that, she does have a fantastic voice and I quite like some of her French-language songs. I've come to particularly like this song, ever since I heard it on the soundtrack of Xavier Dolan's Mommy. The characters in the movie acknowledge that Dion's music is a bit cheesy, but they love her all the same, as she's such a symbol of Quebec. 

The song itself seems to make the assertion that we never change, even if we become more sophisticated and 'on met just les costumes d'autres sur soi' (we wear the costumes/habits of others). Dion symbolises modern Quebec in many ways, as she's a Francophone in an English-dominated world. Although many of her biggest hits were in English, two of her albums - D'eux and S'il suffisait d'aimer (where this song comes from) - rank as the best selling French-language albums of all time. Actually the songs on both album were written by the Parisian musician, Jean-Jacques Goldman, an influential song-writer in his own right.

Le But (2012) by Loco Locass

I really love this song by the Quebecois hip-hop group Loco Locass. My research into Quebec has led me to the conclusion that Quebecois people are a little bit of obsessed with ice-hockey (also Canadians, in general, perhaps?) I was surprised to learn that ice-hockey originated in Montreal, as I'd always thought of it more as a Slavic or Scandinavian import, more at home in places like Alberta or Manitoba. The Montreal ice-hockey team, Les Canadiens (aka Les Habs), are one of the biggest teams in the National Hockey league and a source of pride, honour and sometimes frustration for the people of Quebec. 

I've come across references to ice-hockey again and again in the books I've read and movies I've watched relating to Quebec. This song seems to encapsulate French-Canadian pride, their love of ice-hockey and the history of Quebec. Not to mention the fact that it's extremely catchy - I find myself humming 'Allez, Allez, Montreal' all day long after listening to this. This video from YouTube illustrates the song really well and has some cool images of Les Habs players and fans down the years. 

Au bord de la Fontaine (2003) by Le Vent du Nord

This is the first time I've been able to go and see one of the bands I'm blogging about live in concert, as part of my research. Out of all the Quebecois music I've listened to, Le Vent du Nord is the only band that I'd actually heard of before and I've been a fan of their music since their 2009 album Le Part de Feu. So when I found out they were touring the north of England in January, I couldn't resist and travelled up to Bury, just north of Manchester, to see them play.

There's nothing like live music to really help you understand the sounds involved and I loved the way Le Vent du Nord uses the hurdy-gurdy, accordions and mouth organs, but I also really love their voices - I'm a big fan of call and response singing and no-one does this better than Le Vent du Nord.

This song is from their first album, Maudite Moisson!

Les étoiles filantes (2004) by Les Cowboys Fringants 

This is a really catchy little tune that I couldn't help bobbing my head along to. The lyrics are in the Montreal dialect joual, so I couldn't quite understand the words until I saw them written down and translated into English. 

Les Cowboys Fringants are considered to be 'neo-folk', which is like folk re-interpreted for the modern age. They're fond of accordions and political lyrics, one of my favourite combinations and their music fits well into a long tradition of French chanson or secular, lyric-driven songs. 

I particularly loved this song from their 2004 album, La Grand-Messe. It's about growing old and all the things you lose in adult life, which would be a bit depressing if they didn't balance that with lyrics along the lines of 'just do your best'. Les étoiles filantes means 'Shooting stars' and is a good metaphor for the transitory nature of human existence. 

I've put some of the lyrics below so you can sing along with the YouTube video. 

La trentaine, la bedaine
Les morveux, l'hypothèque
Les bonheurs et les peines 
Les bon coups et les échecs

Travailler, faire d'son mieux
En arracher, s'en sortir 
Et ésperer être heureux
Un peu avant de mourir 

The thirties, the belly
The kids, the mortgage
The pleasures and the sorrows
The strokes of luck and the failures

Working, doing your best
And struggling and getting out
And hoping to be happy
A little before dying

Avalanche (1971) by Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen is a massive musical force and I know a few people who are a bit obsessed with him. He's a poet, as well as a songwriter and his lyrics are very poetic. I've never been a big fan of his music, although I do appreciate the uniqueness of his voice and lyrics. I've always loved Suzanne from his 1967 album, Songs of Leonard Cohen - there's something incredibly poignant and melancholic about that song but, at the same time, I really can't stand one of his other songs, Hallelujah and the popularity of Hallelujah really baffles me.

In the interests of learning more about the world, I made an effort to listen to Leonard Cohen songs that I'd never heard before and I particularly liked Avalanche from his third album, Songs of Love and Hate (1971).  Like many of his songs, Avalanche started off as a poem and the lyrics are ever-so-slightly disturbing, all hunchbacks and golden mountains, like a fairytale-turned-nightmare.  Most of all, I love the music and the way Cohen plays the classical guitar, a feature more prominent in his earlier music.  

Dites-lui (2013) by Ale Dee

In many ways, it's just a silly pop song, but I quite liked this track from Ale Dee's 2013 album, 2013. A.D.  I like the way he throws in a few English phrases in the middle of the French rap and I'm sure this song is really popular with young people in Quebec. It's urban and gritty, another side to Quebecois life and a new generation influenced by musical trends from south of the border.

Navvaatara (2010) by Elisapie Isaac

Like other people, I came across Elisapie Issac's music by watching the movie Cafe de Flore. Elisapie was born in Nunavik, Quebec's far-north region and she sings in French, English and Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit people.  Navvaatara means 'I've found it' and I love the gentleness of this song. I want to learn more about Elisapie Isaac and Inuit culture - perhaps if I end up blogging about Nunavik or Nunavut?

Of course, there were many other artists that I listened to as part of my research - Felix LeClerc, Luc Plamondon, Edith Butler, Lhasa de Sela, La Bottine Souriante - to name but a few!  I've restricted myself to just eight tracks for this play list, but feel free to continue your own research and discover even more Quebecois artists.

I'd be interested in hearing your playlist suggestions (with links, if possible) in the comments below this blog post.

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