People often wonder, why Canadian music? What is so special about it? What attracted me to it?
My story with Canadian music began quite by accident, during a solo trip to Montréal in 1999. I arrived on a gloriously cool summer day (it was 99 degrees at home in Tennessee, it was about 65 in Montréal), checked into my hotel near Berri-UQAM, and went right back out to walk towards Rue St. Catherine and begin exploring. What I didn’t know was that it was the week of Les Francofolies, a fabulous and (at the time, anyway) mostly free music festival.
This being the era before satellite radio, I hadn’t heard any of the terrific Québecois music coming out at the time, and I was immediately and utterly entranced. Even though my grasp of aural French was weak at best, the quality of the songs and the passion of the musicians was apparent across the language divide. I discovered Archambault near my hotel, and Daniel Bélanger’s “Tricycle” – a three-disc compilation of live performances – was one of my first purchases. I think I listened to it on repeat almost all the way back to Tennessee, and it’s rarely been out of my regular rotation ever since. I warble along (in my car) to songs like “Les deux printemps” and “Opium”; I wish everyone could hear and enjoy “La Parapluie”; and on those occasions when I’ve considered quitting a job, it’s “Ces bottes sont faites pour marcher” that goes through my head (along with the next line, “Tu vas regretter!”).
It occurred to me that we Americans too seldom allow music to bridge the linguistic divides with other cultures and countries. Would the music be even more meaningful if I understood all the words? Perhaps. But I love Bélanger’s work, and that of the many other Québecois and French artists I’ve discovered since, even though I’m not fluent in French, and my life is that much richer for it.