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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Marie-Mai (#3)

Marie-Mai Bouchard (known simply as Marie-Mai in pop-culture) is a pop-singer who is one of the biggest names in French music at this time (especially popular with younger generations.  Her music is frequently played on hit-music radio stations in French).

After 10 years, her star appeal is still going strong !

She is a Québeco-Ontaroise singer born in Varennes, Québec, but, who spent much of her growing up years in the town of Moonbeam in Northern Ontario (Ontarios is a more modern name for Franco-Ontarians)

Although Ontarois live throughout Ontario, the highest percentages live in Eastern Ontario, Ottawa, and Northern Ontario (where Moonbeam is located).  Moonbeam is one of a number of towns along Ontario’s Pan-Northern highway 11, where most towns on the highway have Francophone populations exceeding 70%.

Because of Marie-Mai’s success in the French-speaking world in general, she is a source of pride for French-Ontarians, and is part of a list of successful French-Ontarian personalities.  With over half a million Francophones in Ontario, it is the jurisdiction with the second largest French-speaking population in North America.  There are more Ontarios than the entire population of Newfoundland, and twice as many Ontarois as there are Acadians – one of the reasons why Ontario continues to be a source of successful Francophone pop-culture icons.

Like many Anglophone Canadian artists who leave Canada to find larger success in the US, many Ontarois singers leave Ontario for Québec for the same reasons.  The North American French pop-culture industry is highly concentrated in Montréal, just as it’s highly concentrated in Los Angeles for Anglophone North America.

English Canadian pop-culture has several reality singing and talent shows such as The Voice, Canada’s Got Talent, Canadian Idol, etc., and Quebec has a series of French language reality singing and talent shows.  The two main shows are La Voix, and Star Académie, both produced by TVA (one of the “big four” television networks in Québec).  Marie-Mai achieved cultural icon status after achieving 3rd place on Star Académie in 2004 at the age of 18.   The programme’s singers traditionally go on tour across Québec following the season finale of Star Académie, enhancing their celebrity status.

Marie-Mai’s first album was released in 2004.   Career highlights from 2004 until present:

  • she has constantly held top spots on Francophone radio countdown charts in Canada, and occasionally in France
  • she has achieved prizes for best music videos (ie: MusiquePlus, the Francophone equivalent of MuchMusic)
  • she has sung at the St-Jean-Baptiste festival, as well as Canada Day celebrations (which both tend to have amongst the largest annual television audiences in each respective language sphere)
  • she has sung at the Vancouver Olympics
  • she has held several concert tours
  • from 2008 to 2013 she won numerous “best” categories at the Prix Félix (the Quebec award which most closely resembles the Juno or Academy awards).
  • Her music has repeatedly gone both Gold and Platinum

For a taste of some of the songs which has made her a star, check out the following music videos:

  • Sans cri ni haine
  • Je repars (a duet with David Usher in French)
  • Jamais Ailleurs
  • Comme Avant
  • Emmène-moi
  • Encore une nuit
  • J’attendrai mon tour
  • Mentir
  • Rebatir notre histoire
  • C’est moi
  • heart attack
  • Jamais trop tard (a hit duet with with Jonas in French)

Also see if you can catch some of her interviews.  Her accent in French is from Northern Ontario (it’s as charming as both her personality and down-to-earth character – it’s easy to see how she has won the hearts of so many people).

Songs can be purchased on iTunes and other venues (artists are part of our cultural fabric – please do not pirate or illegally violate their work, music, or videos).

Bonne écoute !!


The Poll That Shocked (#2)

“Who is Mari-Mai?” This is the name of an article published in October, 2013 in Le Journal de Montréal (one of the main Montréal daily newspapers).   Le Journal de Montréal conducted a survey of Anglophones living in Montreal, asking them to identify the following francophone celebrities and cultural icons:

  • Marie-Mai
  • Guy A. Lepage
  • Jean-René Dufort
  • Rémy Girard
  • Ron Fournier
  • Pierre Bruneau.

These six people are among the best known francophone icons and pop-culture personalities, but the survey found that most Anglophones living in Montréal couldn’t say who they were (in some cases, almost no anglophones knew who they were).  Because someone like Marie-Mai is as popular to francophone youth as Justin Bieber would be to Anglophones, the article came with shock-and-horror for many francophones (or at least it was made to be such by many influential people in the media).  Unsurprisingly, it became ammunition for people to score political points.

But much of the hoopla died down when a reverse survey was conducted several days later, again by Le Journal de Montréal, asking Quebec francophones to identify the following Anglophone Canadian celebrities and cultural icons:  Gordon Lightfoot, Alice Munroe, Robertson Davies, Peters Mansbridge, Farley Mowat, Peter Gzowski, Billy Bishop, and Blue Rodeo.   The results showed that francophones were just as likely not to know anglophone Canadian celebrities.   After the latter survey, the ruckus quickly died down (a good number of people had to eat some pretty big mouthfuls of humble pie), but the point was made that the Two Solitudes continue to exist.

Ironically, this is not the year 1945 (the year Hugh MacLellan published his book Two Solitudes) when the two linguistic groups lived physically apart.  Modern technology, mass movements of people, and a much more equal society makes it so that we’re interacting together, across Canada, on a daily basis.  Despite the fact that cultural solitudes continue to exist for large segments of the populations, there are still many who have become culturally dualistic (seamlessly weaving themselves in and out of the two linguistic cultures – all-the-while considering both linguistic cultures to be their part of their own daily culture).   Being culturally dualistic was a situation that rarely existed in 1945, and with the likes of the internet, online radio, Youtube, etc., tearing down the notion of Two Solitudes should be easier than ever.

The one area where the article seemed to find bridges between the two linguistic cultures was that both sides knew US pop-culture icons relatively well (go figure).  But hey, if anglos and francos can become enthralled with a 3rd country’s pop-culture, then it should be all the more encouraging to know that tearing down cultural walls within our own country shouldn’t be so difficult.  It’s simply a question of exposure.

A similar poll taken by L’actualité 18 months earlier, in April 2012, again showed that a majority of anglophones couldn’t identify a different list of several larger-than-life celebrities (L’actualité is a weekly news magazine in French Canada — the closest equivalent would likely be what Maclean’s is to English speaking Canada).  The celebrities mentioned were:

  • Julie Snyder
  • Véronique Cloutier
  • Normand Brathwaite
  • Janette Bertrand
  • Gregory Charles
  • Ginette Reno

(As a side note, the latter poll also found that a large majority,  83%, of anglophone respondents in Quebec wanted their chidren to be fully bilingual – beyond just an intermediate level).

With the above two polls in mind, the next 12 entries will cover the above celebrities and how they fit into the Franco-Pop scene.


(I’m not sure why, but I have a strange feeling this is going to come as quite a story, and an eye-opener for many people).

Tout le monde en parle (#1)

“Tout le monde en parle” (Everyone is talking about it) is Québec’s most watched weekly television program (with millions of viewers per episode).  The viewer numbers are so large, that it actually is not an exaggeration to say the streets of Québec and Francophone Canada are quiet on Sunday evenings because everyone is inside watching the program.

The show regularly interviews headline news makers, and often in a controversial manner.   The irony is because the interviews are so audacious, Tout le monde en parle itself regularly becomes Québec’s headline news story the day after it airs.  There has been nothing quite like it in Canadian or Québec history (and possibly nothing like it in the history of North American television).

It is a long-running TV interview show (since 2004), filmed in front of a live-audience, broadcast once a week (two hours every Sunday evening, from 8pm to 10pm) on Radio-Canada.  It is broadcast across Canada – thus regardless where you are in the country, you will be able to watch it.  It is not broadcast during the summer.   It was created by household-name Guy A. Lepage (one of Quebec’s best known actors, comedians, and interviewers).

It takes the format of Guy, and his sidekick Danny Turcot, interviewing well-known personalities from cultural, media, news, or political spheres — sitting at a table opposite to the hosts.  Topics are most always on current events related to those being invited.  Several invitees will often appear in one show, sitting side-by-side.  Often the invitees will have opposing points of views.  Because of this configuration, sparks can sometimes fly, and unexpected debates can ensue, especially if the opposing views of the invitees are of an emotional nature (think politics, or ethical issues).

The program often has heavy societal, social, and political overtones — often shrouding subjects in a serious overtone.   The host has entrenched political views, and his questions can become very pointed, critical and less-than-subtle (aimed at both friends and foes alike).   However, regardless of the host’s own political or social views (which do come through on the show – there is no doubt about it) Guy A. Lepage plays it cool, adds a lot of humour, and it makes for a great entertainment factor.

The program also provides the audience with a rare chance to see celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers in either a relaxed setting, or under the heat (questions and criticism of the invitees can become very unbalancing — which is precisely one of the reasons the show is so popular).   For this reason, it’s one of the highest rated, and best known television shows in Quebec — hence “Everyone is talking about it”.

The most famous names in society appear on the program, but even if someone is not so well known, they will be a household name after appearing on the show (in the hours running up to the show’s airing, Lepage has even been known to tell lesser known guests to get ready to become a household name and recognized everywhere as soon as the show goes to air).

Because of popularity of the interviewees, this is one of those shows which is a sure-fire fast-track to familiarize oneself with popular topics and people being currently discussed in Quebec society during at the office water-cooler, among friends, or in the news.

For Anglophone Canadians, it is also a great way to improve your level of French (you’ll find guests speak with a mix of styles of French, be it standard québécois, local accents, and sometimes joual).

– The show’s official website is http://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/tout-le-monde-en-parle/2014-2015/

– The show’s wikipedia article has highlights of some of the better known moments: