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Posts Tagged ‘two solitudes’

(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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Candy wrappers litter the floor. Pumpkins are splayed out across the road. The costumes have been hung up until next year. Another Halloween has come and gone.

But every Halloween has it’s monster, and they rarely retreat so readily. Last Tuesday, on a stormy Hallow’s Eve Eve, the Parti Québecois – that most Canadian of bogeymen – opened the National Assembly of Quebec’s fall session. Despite the dire warnings, the effect was hardly befitting the seasonal timing.

As with other bogeymen, we’ve been taught to fear separatists as constitutional home wreckers, hell bent on splitting up the country and eradicating the English language. Such parables tainted rumours of an opposition coalition in 2008, and helped to keep Charest’s Liberals in power for nine years. After Wednesday’s Inaugural Speech, however, those warnings are looking rather lackluster. Owe it to the state of the sovereignty movement, or the realities of minority governance, but the Marois under the bed is no monster. (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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