By Chantal Caissie
Ask any Acadian pal and they’ll let you know that the Quinzou (or, y’know, 15 août if you want to get all formal about it) is one of the most fun celebrations in the summer. You’ve got tasty food, noisemakers galore during the raucous tintamarre, and incredible music. As a kid, and still to this day, the element I most strongly associated with my Acadian culture was the music. There was something special about hearing people sing in a familiar Chiac that I never heard in any of the “proper Francophone” channels that were broadcast, and certainly not in any of the Anglophone media I consumed as a child.
That said, I’ve found in my years that the idea many people have about Acadian music and musicians is that they’re all about the traditional fiddles, slight country vibe and that it’s just, well, not very cool. So let me put some of those stereotypes to rest and give you just a few great current Acadian
artists to check out, along with a few familiar favourites.
1) Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire
I said I wanted to break some stereotypes, so what better way to start than with the larger than life, psychedelic rock band Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire. I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite get it upon my first listen. That said, after seeing them live with the full band clad in white save for frontman Serge Brideau, in a
rotating wardrobe of sequined, sheer, or polka-dotted dresses (or at times nothing but a pair of underwear), they certainly left an impression. Frenetic guitars and synths create the quintet’s unmistakable sound, along with Serge’s talk-singing style. If you want a sweaty rock’n’roll party, head to your nearest Hôtesses show.
PS. Their music videos have all been incredible, but I really wanted to showcase the group’s live energy. Make sure to also watch video stand-out “Fais Faillite“.
2) Pierre Guitard
Keeping it rolling with another rock act, because who doesn’t love a bit of rock’n’roll in their life? Pierre Guitard burst onto the scene in 2016 with his debut album, La tige et la racine, an eclectic mix of driving riff-filled rockers and folkier slow-paced jams, like opener “Marianne”. After winning over audiences at various music competitions including Gala de la chanson de Caraquet and FrancoFête en Acadie, Pierre’s spent some time over the past year in Europe, playing shows in Belgium and Switzerland, along with a month-long tour in France. Make sure to catch a show next time he’s in your neck of the woods!
3) Caroline Savoie
Want to make me cry instantly? Start playing Caroline Savoie’s “Y’en aura”. The singer-songwriter’s mastery with words is most evident on this unconventional love song. Caroline absolutely floored me when I first saw her perform – polished but not overly rehearsed, and absolutely engaging: a skill likely honed after a success on The Voice France. Her latest record was produced by 10-time Grammy award winner Jay Newland (Norah Jones, Eric Clapton, Paul Simon) and is worthy of repeated listenings for pop fans.
4) Quiet Parade
I can’t put together a list of Acadian artists without including a band fronted by someone who runs a company literally called Acadian Embassy, showcasing artists from some of Nova Scotia’s Acadian communities. This winter, Quiet Parade released their first-ever French album, Nous Étions Icitte, composed of four songs originally recorded in English. As someone who’s had to do lots of translation work in the past, it’s a huge undertaking to not only translate an existing piece of work, but especially to still have it be lyrical and emotive. If you’re a fan of the group’s original output, make sure to give the Francophone record some spins as well – you won’t be disappointed.
5) Radio Radio
I’m not sure if Radio Radio are the original Chiac rappers, but I’d wager they’re the best known and also the best at it. While the band’s seen various iterations over the years, their fun and catchy party music’s stayed a constant. You can always count on a Radio Radio show to be full of energy and get you singing along (and hey, even if you don’t speak French, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to sing along with at least half of the chorus).
6) Les Hay Babies
Each year at the ECMAs, someone inevitably brings up Les Hay Babies’ infamous elevator stunt from the 2012 event. Wanting to create some buzz, they decided to set up shop in the host hotel’s elevator and play for the guests and delegates throughout the day. And create buzz they did. Since then, they’ve won an ECMA, a Canadian Folk Music Award, and had multiple European tours. Not bad for an elevator pitch.
7) Lisa LeBlanc
Speaking of amazing ECMA showcases, I can’t believe it took until the 2017 Saint John event to finally see Lisa LeBlanc live. I don’t know anyone who walked away from her showcase that year not absolutely floored by how amazing she is as a performer. I mean, she did a banjo cover of “Ace of Spades”. Who knew the banjo could be so badass? After selling over 140,000 albums and receiving two JUNO nominations, the singer known for her “trash folk” style recently announced she’ll be taking a step back from the stage to produce. Here’s hoping she’ll be donning her a banjo again someday, because it’d be a shame to not have the chance to see such a dynamic performer grace the stage again.
If you’re interested in listening to more Acadian artists, you can check out this playlist kicked off by the powerful, nearly entirely a cappella rendition of Zachary Richard’s “Réveille”:
If you want to learn more about National Acadian Day, the deportation, and
Acadian history, you can read a bit about it here.