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Archive for the ‘popular culture’ Category

(For the first in this series on great French Canadian music, click here.)

There is an ongoing trope running through popular Canadian history that ours is a divided nation. According to the myth of the “two solitudes,” French and English Canada, Quebec and the ROC, are doomed to spend eternity in the miserable company of the other, unwilling to speak, unable to get along.

Well that is a load of malarkey. Show a colonist a country with over sixty indigenous languages, and he’ll spend the next four centuries fretting about two European ones. Typical.

It must be said, however, that sometimes our linguistic differences get the best of us. I’m not prepared to say that’s at all unique to Canada, but it does have its downsides, and one of them is the lack of musical exchange between the different languages. This is a loss for listeners, of course, but it is more unfortunate for those musicians – French, English, and otherwise – who lose would-be fans and audiences. (more…)

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You’ve done this and forgotten about it, and it wasn’t a great record – and twenty-five years later you get a letter…

From the liner notes to "Bunkhouse & Forecastle."

From the liner notes to “Bunkhouse & Forecastle.”

Almost two years ago, a friend and I left drove south from Montreal to a small town snuggled next to the American border. It was the middle of February, and our destination was the township of Hemmingford, QC, a charming but inconspicuous place you’ve probably never heard of. Our aim was to visit Stanley G. Triggs, someone neither of us had met before, and a man whom, had things been only a little different, we’d have probably never heard of either.

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A general observation: most advertisements, sports teams, fashion brands, and movies are about as culturally sensitive as a decolonization is easy. Which is to say, not very. That much will be clear to anyone that’s read the fantastic blog, Native Appropriations. If you haven’t already, I’d strongly suggest you check it out. But I got to thinking the other day, what would it be like if your average market industry was a force for decolonization? We’re a ways off that yet, but, hey, what’s the harm in dreaming. With apologies to Molson, here’s an ad I’m still waiting for: (more…)

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Canadian Stereotype Comics, Kate Beaton

Well, after writing three or four posts in week, I’ve slogged off. Typical, isn’t it: another idealistic graduate embraces the blogging world to seek an audience with unbridled optimism, learns quickly that he is in the company of tens of thousands of more articulate bloggers, realizes that his friends have jobs and relationships and lives and other inconveniences that prevent them from hanging on to every painfully selected word, and abandons the enterprise, jaded, slightly embarrassed, hoping nobody mentions the whole thing.

If only that were the case. Unfortunately, the blame lies more upon the technological hiccups of a geriatric macbook than upon blows to my idealism. Good news for my emotional well-being; bad news for my wallet. Hence I find myself using a computer on my old university campus, riding that unsettling wave of stress and nostalgia.

Which conveniently – if clumsily – brings me to the topic for the day. My first post made reference to an amusing phenomena that has arisen over the last five years: nostalgia for an older Canada that many of us grew up with, but which somehow differs from the country we seem to have inherited. Call it Canostalgiada, if you will. (more…)

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Why so serious?

Why so serious?

I have mentioned before that one of my chief motivations for creating this blog was what others before me have seen as a the defining characteristic of current national public discourse – namely, its absence. One could find as many reasons for this as they care to look for – the commercialization of our universities, the current atmosphere of fear towards re-opening old constitutional wounds, the limited scope of debate in electoral politics, etc. Discussion of our big national questions is as passé today as ghetto blasters were vogue at the time of the last major constitutional talks.

In such an atmosphere, those who breach the subject of ‘national character’ are sure to stick out rather awkwardly, and author John Ralston Saul is surely among the sticky few. What I’d like to discuss here is his book A Fair Country (2009), because it is a compelling and tempting attempt to pinpoint the nature of Canada, but one that doesn’t feel quite right, and I’d like to suggest why that might be. (more…)

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The “two solitudes” refers to a traditional understanding of the division between English and French in this country. The term was popularized by a book of the same name by Hugh MacLennan, in which a child of an English and a French parent struggles to establish their own identity. No points for subtly there, Hugh.

Former Governor General Michaëlle Jean declared the two solitudes finished in her 2005 investiture speech, but certain doubts remain. One example that I have personally experienced is the ignorance of music across the great linguistic divide. Putting the BTO’s and Céline’s aside, there are tons of less well-known bands that some people will never discover simply because of their linguistic limitations. I would assume the ignorance lies heavier on the Anglophone side, given the overwhelming predominance of Anglo culture on the continent, but even so the tragedy of divide is held in common: francophone bands lose audiences, while young anglophones in search of new, exciting sounds miss out on some amazing music.

I was lucky enough to be exposed to some of that music while in Quebec last summer, and I’d like to share some of it here. I felt a little cheated that a musicphile like myself could be so unaware of the incredible art that was being produced in my own country. Most of it comes from the last 5 years or so, though I couldn’t resist sticking one classic – the classic – at the front. I hope there’s something here that excites you, and maybe something that encourages you to seek out le nouveau son. (more…)

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