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Mario Pelchat – Dolbeau-Mistassini’s “native son” — Part 4 (#160)

Since we’re still in the series of posts which talks about Dolbeau-Mistassini, let’s talk about one of the city’s native sons:  Mario Pelchat.   Pelchat was born in Dolbeau-Mistassini.  He moved away as a child, but still grew up in the region not far from Dolbeau-Mistassini.

Perhaps one of the best ways to describe him is by saying he’s possibly Québec’s own version of “Michael Bolton”.   I suppose there are a number of comparisons to be made.

  • Both sing very similar styles of music – “pop rock ballads”.
  • Both were huge in the 1990s and saw a good deal of career success in the 1980s (and they’re still both very famous to this day).
  • Both garnered international fame (Mario Pelchat became quite famous in many Francophone countries, such as France, Switzerland, Lebanon and Belgium, whereas Michael Bolton became quite famous in Anglophone countries, such as Canada, the UK and Australia).
  • Both began their careers quite young (Pelchat was a star at a much younger age when he was in his late teens and early 20’s, capturing a solid fan base of an entire generation).
  • And just like Michael Bolton, Mario Pelchat has the ability to sell out concert halls everywhere he goes (even to this day).

Actually, if you’re learning French, perhaps MarioPelchat’s song would be perfect to help with your studies.  Because he sings pop rock “ballads”, his songs and the pace of the lyrics are quite slow and well enunciated.  They just might be the type of lyrics which are conducive to learning French.

Here’s an interesting personal anecdote I have which involved Mario Pelchat… When I lived and worked for a couple years in Lebanon, I quickly came to realize that everyone of a certain generation there knows Mario Pelchat (at least it seemed that way).  He spent a good deal of time performing in Lebanon in the 1990s (the post civil-war years), and many Lebanese associate him with the “good times” the country went through as the war finished and they began to rebuild.  It’s kind of funny actually… when people in Lebanon of a particular generation found out I was Canadian, they’d often ask me three things:

  1. Are you from Montréal? (to which I finally started to lie and simply said yes, because it was just too complicated to say I was from another part of the country! You have to keep in mind that everyone in Lebanon seemingly has at least one relative or friend in Montréal – and for them, Canada pretty much has no other cities),
  2. Is your French accent the same as Celine Dion’s? (always an awkward question – I’d just get blank stares if I said “actually, my accent has a bit more of an Alberta twinge to it” – hahaha), and
  3. Do you know Mario Pelchat?

It’s funny to find out what first comes to mind when people around the world think of your country – and those impressions certainly are not static, and tend vary from place to place.  In Lebanon, Mario Pelchat is definitely one of the first Canadian subjects people think of – go figure!

He is also associated with the biggest of the big music names in Québec and in the French world (he’s certainly part of that small inner circle of the biggest names), many of whom have already been featured in this blog.

Suffice to say, I could write quite a bit.  Pelchat has had his fair share of career ups and downs (but I’d say far more ups than downs).  But instead of going on, I’ll simply refer you to the Wikipedia articles if you want to know more (the French article is particularly comprehensive):

You would have to search far and wide to find someone in Québec or Francophone Canada who does not know Mario Pelchat.  He has been on our TV screens and on the radio for the past 30 years.

The song I know him best for (and which I think most people in Québec and most Francophones across know word-for-word) would be:

  • Je ne t’aime plus

Other songs which are well known include

  • Perdu l’envie d’aimer
  • Quand on y croit (a bit older)
  • Pleurs dans la pluie
  • Les femmes
  • Reste-là (an older hit from the 1980s)
  • Aimer
  • Voyager sans toi
  • Le Semeur
  • Noël à Jerusalem

Pelchat has also sung a good number of French country songs (you may recall the earlier post on Québec country music which I wrote.  Click here for it).  One of his more popular country songs (a duet with Paul Daraîche) is Rosalie.

Anyway, check out his songs and videos… particularly Je ne t’aime plus.  His work is available for sale through various venues.  Please stick to official sites and do not pirate (our artists are part of our cultural fabric).



Maxime Landry (#73)

Maxime Landry was the 2009 winner of Star académie, (created by Julie Snyder), similar to American Idol (which surpassed a television viewer audience of 4 million per episode when it was on the air).

Even though Landry may not have found the same degree of success as Marie-Mai after her near-cleanup of American idol a few years earlier, he nonetheless is just as famous for his own genre of music.

Whereas Marie-Mai is pop-rock, Landry’s songs lean heavily on his skills as a guitarist… taking them into the country spectrum, or near-country realm of music (remember the post named “Country music = Québec”?).

A good number of the songs he sings are reinterpreted classics.  But regardless if these songs were folk or pop at their origin, he’s turned them into a pop-country genre, and given them a whole new public appeal.   Some songs were written for him by other high-profile artists (such as Linda Lemay).

He released albums in 2009 and 2011… but he just came out with a new country album, “3e Rue Sud”, featuring his hit Rendez-vous  (I just checked the countdown, and it is currently charting around #15 to #20 in Montréal, but higher in rural regions (#9 on 97.1FM Haute-Mauricie, for example)

I won’t be surprised if this new album will propel him to a new level (both with air-time and concert tours).

Maxime Landry’s official website is HERE.

His songs are available for sale through various platforms.  Please stick to official sites and do not pirate… our artists are part of our cultural fabric.

Cayouche (#41)

You may recall I mentioned the singer Cayouche in the post titled “Country music = Québec”.

Cayouche is difficult to describe because there’s little in the way Anglophone singers to truly compare him with.  His real name is Réginald Gagnon, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who knows him other than just “Cayouche.”

From the most basic set of information (age, genre of music, origins), you may not think there’s anything extraordinary about him:

  • He’s 60 years old (singing for the public for around 20 years).
  • He’s not Québécois, he’s Acadian (originally from Moncton, but I believe he lives somewhere around the Acadian Peninsula now, perhaps Paquetteville).
  • His style of music is similar to a 1970’s, early 1980’s country.

But boy is he popular!  And not just with fellow Acadians, or others of his generation.   He draws in crowd-after-crowd of 20-somethings and 30-somethings, from all across Québec and Francophone regions of Ontario, in addition to his native Acadia.

Strangely enough, you may rarely see him on television (I have never seen him on TV — he’s more an in-person kind of act)… but a big big chuck of Québec, especially Québec City, seems to know him.  Perhaps owing to certain cultural demographics in Montréal, a lot of Montréal ubanites, especially Le Plateau, may not know him… so this can serve as a good example of how there can often be a disconnect between Montréal culture, Montréwood, and what’s actually popular in the rest of Québec.

It’s as much (or more about) the mystique and legends surrounding Cayouche (kind of like that crazy, almost unbelievable story of what Detroit’s Rodriguez “Sugar Man” is to South Africa), how and where he performs, his persona, the way he looks, the words he chooses when composing his songs, as much as it is his actual tunes.

Picture this…

  • Santa Clause (belly and beard) goes Willie Nelson (bandana, guitar and all) – now you have the look,
  • After leaving the military, he lead a wandering life on the road, performing from bar-to-bar across Canada, bit-by-bit leaving a name for himself… especially in Francophone regions of the country. The urban myths aren’t true that he would down a 24 pack during his performances, but he does bring a few beers on stage to lubrifier his performances as the night goes on (“lubricate” doesn’t quite work in English, like it does in French) – now you have the mystique and legend factor,
  • He’s illiterate (having to compose songs purely from memory), with a very rural style of heavy-accented regional French, often crass, which makes his lyrics unlike anything else standard recording artists would choose. His language is sometimes crude, sometimes not so politically correct (such as his well-known drinking & driving song, L’alcool au volant), and the lyrics are smash hits with a lot of younger guys (you’ll see him at outdoor concerts across Québec, and guys in their 20’s, à moitié chaud, will be holding a beer over their heads, singing along with him, word-for-word) – now you have the words,
  • He’s always smiling, always laughing, telling jokes and coming across as a simple, humble, next-door type of bon Jack. You’d think he was just one of the guys from the audience who decided to get up on stage while everyone was having a good time, and just add a bit more to the mood – with the only difference being he is the show! – now you have the persona.

I get the impression he’s doing a good number of summer festivals each year, and quite a number of other performances in bars & pubs.   Usually someone who relies on these types of venues for their bread-and-butter will tend to stay in the shadows of popularity, but not Cayouche.   People across Québec know where he’ll be, and they turn up in droves!   He has become one of the biggest selling and best known Acadian artists in history.   It’s how he’s done it (by staying out of the concert halls and away from Montréwood) which lends to much of his appeal with Québécois, Acadiens and Ontarois – an average Joe Blow, like everyone in his audience.   There’s an amazing connection.

In closing, the one thing that has me a bit stumped is his accent.  I’m not a linguist or an expert, but to me, although his vowels definitely have an Acadian accent, his vocabulary and intonations don’t always sound like Chiac French from his Native Moncton.   And there seems to be a good number of differences between the way he speaks and Acadien Peninsulaire French where he currently resides (lots of what he says sounds like it could almost be Sudburois French, or Ontario “Nickel-Belt French”; a type of unique accent spoken in Sudbury, Ontario — I would have almost pegged him as being from Sudbury if it wasn’t for his vowels.  Even some of the things he says makes me think of Rivière-la-Paix French from the Peace River district in Northern Alberta, where I lived for a while as a child).  Feel free to offer your comments on this if I’m wrong … it’s a mystery to me.  Perhaps it’s owing to his many years spent travelling around, meandering from place-to-place on the road, bar-to-bar, which could have given him a mixed-style of hors-Québec French accents.  Avec sa personalité et son choix de paroles, son français est pas mal franc comme un deux par quatre.  But regardless, it makes me, and everyone else smile any time he speaks.  It’s great, and it’s part of his unique character which makes him so popular in Québec.

We don’t have many characters like Cayouche in Canada — this kind of legendary icon.  Lets keep his flame alive and support him by getting out there and buying his work.   He adds something very special and unique to Canada’s music culture.  That alone deserves our support.

His music is for sale through various venues.  When searching for it, please stick to officially sanctioned sites and do not pirate (he says he’s still working – and he seems to love what he’s doing and his fans – plus it’s likely his bread & butter… so don’t rip off his work.   He’s a good dude, so return in kind and pay for his songs).

Somebody seriously needs to make a movie about this guy!!

Bonne écoute!!

Country music = Québec (#16)

This post is a fun one for me since I’ve always had a soft spot for country music and culture.   I grew up in small-town Alberta, one of the bastions of country culture, where the country music countdown is often just as popular as the pop-hit music countdown.  But would you believe me if I said that Québec in some ways is one of the few cousins Albertans has on the country-culture front?  No?  Well then keep reading.

For those of you who know Éric Lapointe, what comes to mind?  Perhaps images of a rough’n tough rocker with the tunes to match?  After all, he’s been the bad-boy rocker of Québec music for the past 20 years.  But I bet you never would have associated country music with Éric Lapointe.  Lo, and behold, just a few weeks ago I was completely side-winded when I found out he came out with a new country single! – And not just any country single, but his own French rendition of (brace yourselves…) Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys!  (I just about fell off my chair when I heard it on the radio here in Toronto!).  The French name is “Moman”.  Yes, that’s right, Éric Lapointe reinterpreted the famous mid-1970’s country single, and I’m guessing that 99% of the Québec public is not even aware it was one of the biggest hits in North American history (#49 all-time biggest hit in US history, and #79 all-time biggest hit in Anglophone Canadian history).   So how’s that working out for him?  Well, I just checked, and at this very moment, it is charting at #33 in Montréal on CKOI-FM, and #5 in Québec’s rural regions on 97.1FM Haute-Mauricie.   Go figure !!

So between Éric Lapointe having found his suppressed country side, and Isabelle Boulay having come out with a country album in the last couple of years, does this mean that Québec is taking a turn towards country?  Well, I’m not so sure about that.  But one thing I am sure about is that Québec always has had a country soul since day one, going back to the 1600s (before Nashville, or much of anything in North America even existed).  In fact I’m pretty sure that if it were not for French North America – be it historical French migration to the Western provinces and states, or the spread of Acadian and Cajun music in the US, there would be no North American country music as we know it today.

To put it all in perspective, here’s my shot at a shortened, very general version of the origins of country music. Country is a mixture of four main genres of North American folk music, with various important sub-categories (but let’s just stick with the 4 main genres for simplicity).  The first two genres were heavily derived from Celtic music and Celtic rhythm which was mainly brought to North America by

  • the French (Celtic Normans from France),
  • the Irish, and
  • the Scottish

Genre 1.  French Acadian / French Cajun / French Canadian Celtic (with an additional infusion of Irish Celtic through later immigration to Québec).

Genre 2.  Irish-Scottish Celtic music, highly concentrated in Canada’s Atlantic Provinces, and historically Gaelic regions of Maritime Canada.

Genre 3.  Appalachian folk music, a combination of Irish/Scottish Celtic music with other styles (German immigrants, a wider variety of instruments, local Blues, Gospel, Blue Grass sub-genres, and other mixes).

Genre 4.  Western Music – originating in Western Canada and the Western US, it stems from the folk music and dance of the settlers and pioneers of the Far West and Prairies (first-wave French Celtic; polka, Ukrainian & Germanic music and dance; folk beats and instruments; other Celtic-based farmers moving West).   Combined with storytelling songs on the plight of the Western settlers, it gave rise to a style of music which crossed borders from BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan, all the way down to Oklahoma and Texas.

Country Music

These four genres of music were loosely related through their Celtic and folk roots, and shared rhythms and styles in their most basic forms.   In the 1950s, the Nashville music industry began to consolidate elements of all four genres, stirred them together in a pot, added some music industry dollars, and baked a well-rounded country cake which had appeal power across all four of the traditional genre regions.  Voilà! – One-size-fits-all country music that appealed to those living in the original four regions of the founding genres — including Québec.   This also explains why there are regions of North America where country music has never been very popular (even in rural regions) … they simply were never part of the traditional areas from which country took its roots (regions where country music had relatively little appeal would be New England, non-Francophone regions of Southern Ontario, the BC Lower Mainland, and California, amongst others).   In this sense, Québec / Acadia and Alberta share an historical musical heritage of sorts – musical cousins, if you will.

Much of Québec’s modern pop-music also finds it’s roots in the region’s original folk rhythms and instruments (heavy on the strings and vocals, story-telling lyrics, and a recurring twang).

But enough with the academia of country music, and back to the Québec country music scene…

Many of you may remember the Tommy Hunter country music show on CBC – it was very popular with a generation in Western Canada and the Atlantic Provinces (I remember my dad watched it when I was a small child).  Way before my time, older generations may even remember Don Messer’s Jubilee.  A more recent country-styled nationally broadcast show was Rita and Friends.   Québec also had such programs in French.  I recall catching bits-and-pieces of Country Centre-ville with Renée Martel on Radio-Canada.  It was also popular in more rural regions of Québec (La Beauce, Gaspésie, Mauricie), Acadia, Francophone Ontario, and rural Francophone regions of Western Canada.

Some names who are specifically associated with French country are

  • Cayouche from Moncton, New Brunswick
  • Carole Champagne from Shawinigan, Québec (Mauricie region)
  • Irvin Blais from Gaspésie, Québec

In a broad sense, a case could be argued that Acadian and Cajun singers also constitute a form of country singers, such as Édith Butler and Zachary Richard (after all, they sing in one of the four main genres that historically constitutes country music) — but I’m not sure they would self-classify themselves as anything but Acadian and Cajun singers.

Québec has numerous country music radio stations:  Radio Passion Country Mégantic, Radio Québec-Country in Thetford Mines, CKKI-FM Kahnawake, 1040-AM Montréal to name just a few.

True to its rural and agrarian roots, Québec also has numerous annual Country & Western festivals and rodeos across the province (at least two dozen, possibly three dozen or more).   Some of the more notable ones are the Sainte-Béatrix Rodeo held the end of August, the month-long Western Festival in St-Tite in September (rodeos, exhibitions and other events), and the St-Hyacinthe Expo Agricole with chuck-wagon races, livestock competitions, and rodeos in July (I attended the St-Hyacinthe expo many years ago – and it rivalled most of anything you’d find in Alberta).

Roger Lacasse, from Mirabel, Québec, became a yearly favorite competitor at the Canadian Finals Rodeo held in Edmonton, Alberta each year (I’ve seen Lacasse compete in person in Edmonton many years ago, and he’s become famous in rodeo culture).  I believe Lacasse has even been inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame – a big thing in country circles.

I hope this post has shown that Québec pop-culture is more than just “Montréwood” (hey, if “Hollywood” is the best-fit term for Anglophone pop-culture industries, and “Bollywood” is the best fit for Indian and Indian Sub-Continent pop-culture industries, then it’s only fitting that we use the term “Montréwood” for Québec and Francophone Canada pop-culture industries – it is Montréal-centred after all).

I’d encourage you to take the time to explore a bit of Québec’s country pop-culture a little further.  It only takes a few creative web searches to open this unique and interesting world.  Youtube is full of budding new French-country artists who are using it as a platform to garner attention, as well as videos of Québec’s country festivals.  Better yet, if you have the chance to attend a country festival in Québec, it will be an experience you will never forget!