University of Washington

Québec Popular Music Collection


Article on Collection

About This Collection:

The Québec Popular Music Collection demonstrates the immense musical, cultural, and linguistic diversity that characterizes the vast genre of popular music in Québec. There were multiple aims in the realization of this project. While the Canadian Traditional Music Collection’s primary purposes are to commemorate the distinction of its musical heritage and highlight its diversity throughout the country, this collection focuses on the variety of artists based in Québec to emphasize its rich popular genres that are distinct and insightful in their own right. Through the collection’s web resources and recordings, I hope people will learn about culture, history, and politics in Québec through its popular music. Most importantly, I hope to properly introduce the impressive range of popular talents – which includes but extends far beyond Celine Dion – that continues to surge from Québec’s musical capital of Montréal, including such internationally acclaimed artists as Lhasa de Sela, Arcade Fire, The Stills, and Les Cowboys Fringants.

There are several reasons for Québec’s thriving popular music diversity. First of all, it has a long history that grew out of Québec’s rich folk traditions. This collection, however, focuses primarily on recordings from the past 20 years in order to paint a more contemporary picture of what is currently going on in Montréal. Québec has a unique status as the principal francophone territory in North America, and makes a high priority of maintaining its francophone linguistic heritage. For that reason, and due to Québec’s declining birthrate, the government accepts a large population of immigrants from throughout the francophone world. With nearly ninety percent of all immigrants living and settling in Montreal, they have had a tremendous affect on Montreal’s diverse popular music scenes. The most vivid examples exist in the three major music festivals hosted in Montréal during the summer including the Festival du Jazz, the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, and Les Francopholies, where representing Quebec’s cultural diversity,  heritage, and broad range of popular and neo-traditional music are highly valued. The astonishing public, private, and governmental sponsorship for these festivals and for music in general reflects Québec’s high consideration for music and the arts.

In addition to capturing this diversity, the collection aims to teach the French language and Québec culture through popular music. An excellent method to improving French comprehension is to read lyrics of the kind of music you like. In this day and age, with the popularization of Myspace and YouTube, we can learn about artists and genres from around the world. Through the Artists Website and Myspace Links and Youtube Video Links pages, you can become acquainted with some of the collection’s featured artists and their music to decide what albums you are interested in checking out. Brief introductions to the genres and highly recommended artists are included on the Youtube Video Links page.

As Devon Leger discusses in the introduction to the Canadian Traditional Music Collection, there are inherent problems with the classification of popular music. Likewise, there are inevitable difficulties when categorizing popular music. Although there are inevitable traditional influences from Québec folk music and the folk music of the communities that emigrated to Québec, I employ “popular music” to avoid the more problematic term of “world music”, which tends to lump musical genres of all non-western types in the category of the “other”. For the sake of this project, popular music is an umbrella term that oversees the following genres: Québec Chanson, Neo-Traditional Québécois, Indie-Rock/Alternative, Hip-Hop/R&B, Latin/Caribbean, African/Maghreb.

There will be inevitable shortcomings in any attempt to characterize popular music of a given city or specific area through a finite collection of recordings. The factors that assisted my selection of artists and recordings revolved around research I have conducted on popular music in Québec. The research involved: surfing Myspace profiles and artist websites; studying in Montréal (Summer ’07), attending concerts, and collecting festival programs; looking up awardees of the Félix Music Awards in Québec; corresponding with musicians and scholars in Montréal; and researching academic literature on Québécois popular music. My two most significant biases were to acquire recordings that demonstrated Québec’s eclectic varieties of popular music, and to seek artists that possess innovative musical and lyrical aesthetics, while doing my best to interpret their levels of popularity. There is a larger Indie-Rock/Alternative section because I think UW students can more easily relate to this genre, and since Seattle is also recognized for its strong Indie-rock scene.

The collection was compiled and created by Cody Case, an MA in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington who was gratefully funded by the Canada Studies Center to conduct research and write his MA paper on popular music and cultural diversity in Québec. We owe many thanks to the UW Canada Studies Center and particularly Associate Director Nadine Fabbi for her ceaseless support. A gros merci (big thanks) also goes out to Anne Hilton, Siôn Romaine, Dr. Thierry Giasson, and Devon Leger for all their work and advice that made the realization of this project possible.

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Winter 2009 - Discover Canadian Popular Music and Culture through the New UW Québec Popular Music Collection via the Internet!
by Cody Case



Cody Case has an MA in Ethnomusicology and was gratefully funded by Canadian Studies with FLAS fellowships to conduct research on popular music and cultural diversity in Québec for his MA thesis. This article introduces a new Canadian Studies website where readers can learn about popular music culture in Québec and the vast variety of artists through their band websites, Myspace profiles, and Youtube videos.

SOC WF 312/405 course photo
Cody Case is currently in Paris teaching English and Music in a primary school, continuing to improve his French, and working on several music projects. Check out www.myspace.com/codycase7.

The Québec Popular Music Collection demonstrates the immense musical, cultural, and linguistic diversity and vast range of talents that characterize the many genres of popular music in Québec. There were multiple aims in the realization of this project. While the Canadian Traditional Music Collection’s primary purposes are to commemorate the distinction of its musical heritage and highlight its diversity throughout the country, I wanted this collection to focus on the variety of artists based in Québec to emphasize its rich popular genres that are distinct and insightful in their own right. Via the collection’s web resources and recordings, people will learn about culture, history, and politics in Québec through its popular music. Most importantly, I hope to properly introduce the impressive range of popular talents – including but far extending beyond Celine Dion – that continues to surge from Québec’s musical capital of Montréal.

Two exciting features on the collection’s website are the Youtube Video Links page and the Artist Website and Myspace Links page, where you can immediately become acquainted with artists and their music to decide what albums you are interested in checking-out (these will be available in UW collections within the next year). On both pages, I organized the music into six genres classifications: Québec Chanson/Francophone Pop-Rock, Neo-Traditional Québécois, Hip-Hop/Rhythm and Blues, Indie-Rock/Alternative/Other, Latin/Caribbean, African/Maghreb. On the Youtube Video Links page, I wrote introductions to each genre to highlight recommended artists, and give some historical and cultural explanations and context for the music.

I focused primarily on francophone music, partly to emphasize the French linguistic heritage of Québec, and partly to be used as a resource for UW students learning French. An excellent way to improve French comprehension is to read the lyrics for music that appeals to you. Although the Québécois accent and language itself is different from standard French, there are many vocalists who do not sing with a strong Québécois accent. Moreover, reading along with the lyrics can greatly improve students’ ability to comprehend and pronounce the French language. By accompanying words with melodic and rhythmic phrases, the listener inadvertently learns about Québécois language and culture in the process. With the six genres of music listed above, I am certain students will find at least a few artists they like, most importantly sparking an interest to satisfy the curiosity of learning the meanings of songs, and an inspiration to learn the French language in an engaging manner.

The factors that assisted my selection of artists and recordings revolved around research I conducted on popular music in Québec. The research involved: surfing Myspace profiles and artist websites; studying in Montréal (Summer ’07), attending concerts, and collecting festival programs; looking up awardees of the Félix Music Awards in Québec; corresponding with musicians and scholars in Montréal; and researching academic literature on Québécois popular music. My two most significant biases were to acquire recordings that demonstrated Québec’s eclectic varieties of popular music, and to seek artists that are popular and well known and/or possess innovative musical and lyrical aesthetics.

We owe many thanks to the UW Canada Studies Center and particularly Associate Director Nadine Fabbi for her ceaseless support. A gros merci (big thanks) goes to Devon Leger, now with Northwest Folklife and the founder of the Canadian Music Collection; Dr. Thierry Giasson, former Pacific Northwest Visiting Québec Professor at the Center and currently at Université Laval; Siôn Romaine, Canadian Studies Librarian; and Anne Hilton, Canadian Studies Outreach Coordinator and webmaster for all their work and advice that made the realization of this project possible.

Please check out the site at the new site on the Canadian Studies Center webpage under “Collections and Resources.”

This project was supported, in part, by funding from the Canadian Studies Center Title VI Grant, International Education Programs Service, US Department of Education.

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