Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Quebec Summer Festival Stands Firm - English Stays

You've got to give credit to the head honchos of the Quebec Summer Festival, Daniel Gélinas and his PDG Dominique Goulet, who are shrugging off as insignificant complaints that the festival is a betrayal of French music and artists.

As you may have read in a previous post, the summer festival is a monstrous success, which follows a Woodstock like formula, where a pass allows you to see all the performances, held outdoors on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City during the summer. Quebec Music Festival Hits the Right Note

The two week festival has been growing each year, bursting out from a 'local' affair, to become a national and international event that attracts tourists from across Canada and the United States.

The formula used by the festival is to bring world class talent, such as the Black-Eyed Peas, Santana Ramstein, Iron Maiden, etc, etc. which drives attendance, subsidizing the less popular shows, mostly local francophone acts.

Last years event played before 1.5 million concert-goers, 75% more than in 2006, a remarkable achievement for a city of 400,000 people.

French nationalists have been squealing for years that the event should restrict itself to Quebec talent only, in order to promote culture and offer support financially to local artists.
The case has been made, that since the festival receives a government subsidy, French language restrictions should apply.

Festival directors deflected these arguments by pointing out that without the international English artists, the deficit would skyrocket. The jam packed audiences for name acts, contrasts sharply with the more restrained crowds that greet Francophone headliners.

The people have spoken.

Recently windbag Louis Plamondon has called for the firing of Dominique Goulet for her unwavering support of excellence over language. For Prefontaine, ramming francophone artists down the throat of an unwilling public is more about a language crusade, than entertainment.

Ms. Goulet shocked language sensibilities by making some provocative statements which disparaged Quebec talent, sending militants into  a letter-writing frenzy.
She had stated in the past that there is not one Francophone artist who could fill the massive outside venue at the Plains of Abraham. She further shocked the francophone artistic world by opining that modern groups, regardless of their native tongue need to sing in English if they want to achieve international success.
Quebec's hottest artist is Bobby Bazini, a francophone who sings exclusively in English and who is building an international reputation and is typical of this phenomenon. Barzini was excluded from running for an industry prize for best Quebec artist because he sings in English.
So groups like Arcade Fire are also banned, leaving the floor to mediocre groups like Loco Locass

That's what militants want. French at any cost. Too bad for them the public is of another mind.

The latest flap comes from the over-the-hill and decidedly passé, singer MARJO who demanded that festival organizers give her a firm commitment and date for next summer's show. When the festival demurred, claiming it was too early in the game, her agent hit the roof and accused the organizers of firming up the English talent before they would make commitments to the francophones.

Very likely true.....

Nathalie Petrowski, writing La Presse, tells the story of how she dragged her offspring to see Marjo perform at the Bell Centre, in order to expose her son to a little Quebec culture. In a venue where he had seen Lady Gaga and Madonna, it was no contest. He left at intermission.....

Now before everyone jumps on me, telling me I'm a racist, let me say that there's some very good talent coming out of Quebec.

Trouble is,  there's not enough to fill a first class festival. It's just a question of numbers. Quebec's eight million in population cannot hope to compete against the world, but fans who shell out hard-earned money aren't expecting, nor will they pay for second class acts. They can get that for free at any St.Jean Baptiste concert!

Many Quebec artists enjoy more success than they deserve and it's based solely on language.

If you need convincing try watching this dreadful rap song by Loco Locass celebrating the Montreal Canadiens. It's a hit! No way can you finish watching it to the end, it really sucks! YouTube

Compare that to this bunch of Anglo amateur nobodies. Link.

The stink put up by the Montreal artistic community is strange, given that the Montreal Jazz festival is not targeted in the same way. Many are calling it a Montreal/Quebec thing, but it just comes down to money, not language.
Quebec artists have had their hands out for years, blackmailing authorities to pay up in order to protect Quebec culture. They don't want to, nor can they compete on a talent level with the world, so they  play the culture card.
This time it didn't work.

Quebeckers have voted with their wallets, so bring on the Black-Eyed Peas!!


  1. Kinda makes you wonder whether our province’s perennial cultural “struggle” is most faithfully represented using a David versus Goliath narrative, or if it’s more fairly depicted by imagining an overindulged sixteen year old with a “queen bee” attitude who thinks she’s prettier than she really is…

  2. Saw Gregory Charles in Laval a few years ago, he's a lot of fun. Ariane Moffatt is pretty good, so are Cowboys Frignant and some of Gilles Vigneault's stuff. Who on earth is Marjo?

  3. You offer no criteria as to judge what is excellent music.

    Are you really telling me that Lady Gaga and Madonna are "excellent" musicians. Do you really want us to believe that it is their command of music that draws crowds or the stage show. They are big acts, they are international pop stars. The language of international pop music is English and has been for a long time. These are facts, and obviously the Festival D'Ete wants to have a bigger profile than Quebec musicians.

    But don't pretend for one minute that this is about "excellence in music," the big names you mention are no original or excellent in musical performance than Marie Mai is, they are all equally average, it merely comes down to stage performance and celebrity sycophancy.

    It is also telling the to make it big in any sense musicians have to come to the United States. Anglo-Canadians are just window shoppers for a musical pop culture they can't produce on their own. Not that this is a bad thing, because 90% of what is popular in the USA is pandering to the lowest common denominator.

    So, I fail to see this is a battle between "excellent" American musicians and sub par Quebecois acts. It is merely a battle between the American musical juggernaut, and regional acts in the French language.

  4. "Anglo-Canadians are just window shoppers for a musical pop culture they can't produce on their own."

    Are you kidding???! English Canada has produced a huge number of top-notch singers and bands.

    Check out the following link at wikipedia:


  5. Justin said...
    "But don't pretend for one minute that this is about "excellence in music," the big names you mention are no original or excellent in musical performance than Marie Mai is, they are all equally average, it merely comes down to stage performance and celebrity sycophancy. "

    It's not as simple as that. You've mentioned considering "Madonna" or "Lady Gaga" excellent is purely a matter of taste and not a fact, I'd have to agree but local talent hardly compares to what international stars have to offer. Even if we were to forget the obvious difference in languages being used, one can't ignore the huge gap in terms of overall music/song production, stage presence and actual performance quality of an international star vs government subsidized "Quebecois" artists.

  6. I think Quebec City has decided not to play second fiddle to Montreal. They seem to be aiming at turning their city into a major world city by attracting these big names bands. Good or bad, they are certainly big name groups. Montreal's whinny plateau clic doesn't want to see that happen. They want their separatists/francophone/communist society safe from any outside influences. Sorry, but not everybody wants to be tied down to that ideology. Rock on Quebec City. Rock on!