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quebecois music recommendations

Quebecois Music

A guide to Quebec trad for English speakers

Internets, as you all know, I’ve been happily fangirling Quebec traditional music for a couple of years now, and quite a few of you have started to ask me questions about it. And because I like you, Internets, and I want to share with you the musical goodness, I’d like to present for you a Guide to Quebecois Traditional Music for English Speakers!

Q: What is Quebecois traditional music?

A: A very close cousin of Irish/Celtic trad. If you’re a fan of Irish or Scottish music, you’ll probably find Quebec trad very compatible to your tastes; there’s a lot of overlap between the two genres.

Q: What makes Quebec trad differ from Irish/Celtic/Scottish/etc.?

A: Three main differences, which are:

  1. Podorythmie. With most Celtic bands the percussion will usually be handled by a bodhran player, who may double up on shakers or bones. There may or may not be an actual drumkit depending on how far into rock the band in question slants. With a Quebec trad band, though, the percussion is almost always handled by someone who does podorythmie, the rhythmic footwork that’s a big signature sound for the genre.
  2. Call and response. Quebec trad is very heavily structured around call and response, where you’ll have whoever’s singing lead echoed by the rest of the band. Relatedly, you’ll find a great number of Quebec trad songs structured in such a way that the first line of a verse will be called, then responded, and then the verse will finish up with a chorus and then a second line which will then roll over into being the first line of the next verse. (This is a very helpful song structure when you’re a newbie to French and you’re trying to figure out how to sing the words!)

    Now, sure, call and response isn’t unknown in Celtic trad in general–but I’ve seen it be a LOT more common in Quebec trad. It makes the songs highly participatory and that’s one of the big reasons I love singing along to the songs so much.

  3. Turluttes. You’ll find a lot of Quebec trad songs will have a turlutte section, sometimes small, sometimes dominant, and sometimes as the entire song. Turluttes are when you get a singer or group of singers vocalizing a melody that in other traditions might be played with instruments. You’ll also hear this referred to as mouth music or mouth reels, similar to puirt à beul or lilting.

    As the Wikipedia link I’ve pointed at in the previous paragraph calls out, turluttes are built out of a set of specific phonemes–a lot of t and d and l and m sounds. They’re almost always up-tempo and joyous and great, great fun.

    A truly splendid example of turluttes in action can be found sung by Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer right over here, with bonus podorythmie solo in the middle.

Q: How is Quebec music similar to Irish/Scottish/Celtic music?

A: Lots of Quebec trad will be familiar to Celtic music fans just because there’s a rich heritage of tunes, jigs/gigues, reels, etc. There are some fun musical and stylistic differences that instrumentalists will notice–particularly how many Quebec tunes are often played “crooked”, doing interesting things to time signatures and varying up the rhythm. If you’re an instrumentalist you’ll want to listen for that.

Likewise, a lot of the topics of the songs will be familiar to Celtic music fans. Alexander James Adams has been often quoted (in particular by me!) as saying that the three main categories of Celtic music are Whiskey, Sex, and Death. This is also true of Quebec music, although from what I’ve seen in Quebec music, it’s more like Wine, Sex, and Death, with a side helping of Religion. (I’ve noticed quite a few songs involving shenanigans that involve priests, for example. 😉 )

Q: Do I need to be able to speak French to appreciate Quebec trad?

A: No! Certainly no more than you need to be a Irish or Scots Gaelic speaker to appreciate Celtic music, anyway. I find that studying a little bit of French enough to let me get an idea of how Quebec trad lyrics go enhances my appreciation of the songs considerably, but you don’t have to go to the lengths I’m going. A lot of the most active bands in the genre post lyrics to their websites, often in both French and English, and even if they only post the French lyrics that’s enough for you to throw the words through a translation engine.

And there’s fun stuff to be found in the lyrics, too. Plus if you do that, you get to be one of the Anglophones in a Quebec trad concert who can start snickering at all the best bawdy bits of songs!

Also, turluttes are language-agnostic!

Q: Enough overview! Who are some bands or artists I can check out?

The ones I’m most fond of are La Bottine Souriante, La Volée d’Castors, Galant, tu perds ton temps, Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, Genticorum, De Temps Antan, and especially Le Vent du Nord!

And if you have trouble telling all those names apart, I can direct to you to this handy flowchart I made for that exact problem!

Quebec Band Flowchart

Quebec Band Flowchart

For a nice crossover of Celtic and Quebec fiddle styles, I also highly recommend Celtic Fiddle Festival, who feature André Brunet of De Temps Antan. There are also a couple of excellent albums done by André Marchand and Grey Larsen, specifically on the theme of crossover between Irish and Quebec music, and I recommend those too. You can find them here.

I will update this FAQ with new data as I think of it. I did overviews on my favorite bands a while back but I’ll be posting new ones as well, since several of the bands in question dropped new albums since I originally wrote those posts.

Any questions I haven’t covered here? Shoot ’em at me!

Quebecois Music

Quebecois band recommendations: De Temps Antan!

These guys are the newest of the (male) Quebec bands I’ve picked up, both in terms of how long they’ve been active as a trio and how long I’ve been aware of them. They are also proof of my newly learned truth that any Quebec band with a Beaudry in it will have my IMMEDIATE AND UNDIVIDED attention! Because once I realized that Éric Beaudry, the brother of the lovely Simon, is himself an awesome bouzouki player, I was all over pulling these guys’ albums down from iTunes.

Monsieur Beaudry is the main draw for me here, just because of my fondness for the bouzouki, and it’s great fun to hear one used as a primary rhythm instrument in a trio. But that said, the other two boys in the band, lead singer Pierre-Luc Dupuis and fiddler André Brunet, are not to be discounted either. M. Dupuis has a nice full, rich voice, and M. Brunet (who, I note, is the brother of Réjean over in Le Vent!) rocks him some fiddle.

Since there are only three members of the band, the instrumentation is accordingly sparser than the other groups I’ve been listening to, but this doesn’t mean there’s less vigor. In addition to M. Beaudry’s bouzouki, M. Dupuis apparently likes him some harmonica, and the combo of those with the fiddle works very well.

Like with this YouTube vid of their song “La turlutte du rotoculteur”, which is the first one of theirs that I seized on. The layering in of their vocals, then the footwork, and finally M. Beaudry going at it on the zouk, I said? SIGN ME UP.

De Temps Antan have only two albums available so far, À l’année and their newer one, Les habits de papier. Both are available on iTunes and Amazon MP3 downloads, and good news for those of you who are fond of buying from indie sites–the newer album is also available on CD Baby!,, and all have the newer album in physical form, but between having it at import prices and the likelihood of big shipping charges if you’re not in Canada, I’d personally vote for CD Baby first out of these.

Or! De Temps’ own site sells both albums directly, so really, you should try them first. 😀 (And oooh, they have T-shirts. This may well be Relevant to My Interests!)

Since there are only two albums to choose from, if you want only one, go with Les habits des papiers. That’s the one with the aforementioned “La turlutte du rotoculteur” on it, which I’ve been playing a lot. I also like “Pétipétan” (good showcase of M. Dupuis’ voice) and “Grand Amuseur du Filles” (good showcase of M. Beaudry taking the lead vocals) from that album.

There’s good stuff on the other one too, though. On that album, “Chère Léonore”, “Intrinifor”, “Duvons, Mes Chers Amis Buvons”, and “Les Pissenlits Bricoleurs” are my repeat play tracks.

Last but not least, recent Googling let me discover that De Temps were actually in Seattle last year! To which I say AUGH, if I had ONLY KNOWN. However, this raises the hope that they might come back sometime soon. If they do, I am THERE.

Quebecois Music

Quebecois band recommendations: Le Vent du Nord!

Tonight at session, my friend Ellen (sutures1 on LJ) asked me if I’d give her some recommendations about all of the various Quebec bands I’ve been listening to! Since I’m always happy to share fangirly love, and since I’m also newly of the conviction that it’s good for an Anglophone’s mental health to discover awesome bands in a language she does not speak and to therefore be inspired to learn that language, I’m going to oblige.

Which means, of course, that I must first and foremost cover Le Vent du Nord.

It has been a hard, protracted battle between these guys, La Volée d’Castors, and Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer for the position of My Favorite Quebecois Band. However, right now Le Vent is winning for a few important reasons!

One, they have Simon Beaudry! As y’all have seen me gush on previous posts, I’ve got a huge crush on this boy. He plays him a lovely bouzouki and guitar, and sings beautifully as well. He’s the secondary singer of Le Vent, but what songs he does sing lead on are among my favorites. Like, say, “Lanlaire”!

(And besides, Chibi!Simon Beaudry is just the most adorable little guitar player ever. Somebody drew him an awesome Facebook avatar!)

Two, Le Vent’s lead singer, Nicolas Boulerice, plays the hurdy gurdy–and Unusual Instruments FOR THE WIN. His voice has a very distinctive timbre to it, and he’s got a great dynamic range in his style of performance; of the tracks he sings lead on, he goes from lively crowd-stompers to haunting ballads and back again.

Three, as I’ve also gushed in a previous post, Olivier Demers was kind enough to answer an email I sent him with a question about one of their songs, and that right there is worth massive amounts of Awesome. More importantly, though, he is Le Vent’s podorythmie guy AND fiddler, and the various videos I’ve seen of him doing both at the same time are mighty impressive. Also, he apparently gets to do all the charming intros to various songs explaining them to English-speaking audiences. 😀

Four, since I’ve said nice things about the other three Le Vent guys, I should also mention bassist and squeezebox player Réjean Brunet, who as far as I can tell so far gets a bit overshadowed by the other guys–but hey, Internets, a good bass player is the backbone of any band, am I right? I particularly noted M. Brunet in a live vid I found of Le Vent doing an a cappella performance, wherein he got to take his turn singing lead on something; he’s got a very nice voice too, and it ought to get more of a chance to stand out.

Now, all this said, let’s talk albums. Most of Le Vent’s discography is available electronically on iTunes’ US site and on’s MP3 Downloads site; the only album of theirs NOT available in either place is the awesome Symphonique live album I just finally picked up. A quick check of the Canada, UK, and Australia iTunes stores confirms for me that the same set of Le Vent albums are available there as well. So for most of you likely to be reading this post, you should find them reasonably well available.

If you want to avoid both iTunes and Amazon, Le Vent’s own site links off to their Borealis Records page, where you can apparently also order the same albums that are available electronically. Downloads appear to be available but if you explore this route, be on the lookout for downloads possibly being Canada-only. Likewise if you order Le Vent albums from, the site of a big chain store in Quebec. Note on that latter link: if you order physical CDs from them, shipping charges for a single CD may be higher than the actual CD price, so you may want to consider ordering more than one CD at once.

Now, though, if you just want to get one Le Vent album, which one to get? It’s important to note that Le Vent’s current membership configuration settled into place only as of their previous studio album, Dans les airs. So if you want an album that most accurately reflects their current sound, you should get either Dans les airs or La Part du Feu. I’d be hard pressed to choose between the two. Both have several tracks I’ve been repeatedly playing.

Le Vent’s first live album, Mesdames et messieurs, is decent–and noteworthy for having guest vocals done by Bernard Simard, a previous member of the band, who did a lot of lead vocals on their first album Maudite moisson!. However, if you want to go with live Le Vent, find the Symphonique album if you can! Since it’s not available electronically, you’ll probably have to order it if you’re not lucky enough to live near a store likely to have it in stock. It’s available here and here. And for the sake of thoroughness, please to note my full review post for that album–I very much enjoy this album and have been playing through several of the tracks repeatedly.

And now, a handful of my favorite Le Vent songs:

  1. “Écris-moi”, on La Part du Feu. Sung by M. Beaudry, a lovely little song in 6/8. Both French lyrics and the English translation are available here.
  2. “Lanlaire”, also on La Part du Feu. Another Simon song, which has an excellent performance on the Symphonique album as well, and which has figured prominently in my Le Vent vid watching! Note also that this is the song with the chorus I discovered is a bit less work safe than you might expect, if you translate it properly. ;>
  3. “Cré mardi”, on Les amants du St-Laurent. This is hands down Le Vent’s best crowd-stomper, belted out with vigor by M. Boulerice, and with an awesome extended turlutte as the entire second half of the song. Great fiddle and footwork here by M. Demers as well. This one appears on both of the Le Vent live albums and is the closer on the Symphonique one.
  4. “Rosette”, on Dans les airs. This was the first of Le Vent’s songs to get my attention, and was the first to sell me on the strength of M. Boulerice’s voice and on the smoothness of all four guys’ combined harmony.
  5. “Le vieux cheval”, on Dans les airs. My fellow Great Big Sea fans will know what I mean when I say that this song is kind of Le Vent’s “General Taylor”. It’s a shanty, and the harmony on the choruses (as of the second verse) is seriously swoonable. I’m pretty sure that’s M. Brunet hitting those rumbly bass notes on the bottom of the chorus, too, if we want to talk other reasons to fangirl over the bass player. 😉

Last but oh my definitely not least, my entire YouTube Le Vent playlist is right over here! I’ve dropped notes on a lot of these calling out why I like them. The “Cré mardi” vid in the radio studio is particularly awesome, as are the casual videos where the band is playing in the middle of a relaxed bunch of festival-goers.

ETA: I have discovered, O Internets, that the aforementioned chibi!Simon pic was in fact the work of Mr. Kevin Bolk! It was commissioned by fellow Le Vent fan Susan Moseley, whose acquaintance I have made on Facebook, and who had him do all four members of the group. Mr. Bolk, it is vital for me to note, is also the artist who did the Star Trek parody webcomic Ensign Sue Must Die!, about which I have previously squeed on this blog. Y’all go visit Mr. Bolk’s site and say nice things about his work, s’il vous plait!

Quebecois Music

Quebecois GIRLS can bring it too

Thanks to M Kenney, who clearly knows where all the best Quebecois music is, I now have yet another awesome band recommendation: Galant, Tu Perds Ton Temps! They’re an all-female (aside from their percussion guy), all-vocal group, like the Charbonniers, and I’ve now found both of their albums on iTunes and am happily blazing my way through the samples. I will totally be buying these.

Also, their band name makes me giggle and giggle and giggle. If I’m translating it correctly, it’s something like “Suitor, you waste your time!” Bwahahaha! XD

They unfortunately do not appear to be on CD Baby, for those of you who are not iTunes-inclined, and Amazon’s US site only shows them as import CDs. Amazon’s Canadian site has them for slightly cheaper prices, but shipping costs may offset that. has them though, and if you want to order from somewhere that isn’t iTunes or Amazon, go there and search for “galant tu perds ton temps”. They have MP3 samples for listening, though you can only buy the CDs if you’re outside of Canada.

Check ’em out, y’all!