Le son des Français d'Amérique documents the musical and singing heritage of America's French-speaking people, following in the footsteps of the continent's last French-speaking representatives of a vanishing oral tradition.
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Well-known button-accordion player Philippe Bruneau from Montréal tells of how he became an internationally recognized folk musician. His outstanding compositions dedicated to many of Quebec’s great musicians have become and inspiration for generations of young Trad musicians.
Fiddler Junior Crehan de Clare tells us how after working in the fields and caring for the animals, there is sometimes a little time left over for music. Farmer James Gleeson, poet Liam O’Muirthliem, and the musicians and dancers of Gleeson’s Pub reveal what they have in common with Ireland: music and the quest for freedom.
Musicians from Quebec’s Portneuf region adopted and adapted Irish fiddle and drum tunes. Road worker and fiddler André Alain; carpenter and accordion player Jean-Claude Petit; and bus driver, frame-drum player, and jig dancer Arthur Tremblay introduce us to their lively music.
The French-speaking population of Port au Port was made up of Acadian exiles, fishers from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, and Breton and French deserters. Their descendants preserved a spirit of freedom that can be heard in their music. As the great Newfoundland fiddler Émile Benoît said, Ça vient du tchoeur (It comes from the heart). A touching account!
Bretons descend from the Celts, and France once banned their language and culture. An eloquent example for understanding, in reverse, the assimilation of certain French-speaking communities in the Americas. Philippe Durand refutes the mechanics of colonialism, and Emmanuel Kerjean and Lomig Denniou answer with melodies and call-and-response songs (Kan ha diskan).
In Quebec, ruine-babines (literally, lip destroyer) is a common term for the harmonica. It’s also the name of a group of young musicians from the Montréal region. Gilles Garand, Louise De Grosbois, and friends embarked on an exploration of their musical roots, and they talk about their discovery of French-Canadian folk music.
Sexton Rosie Pratte, fiddler Charles Pagé, and the last French-speaking families of Old Mines (Vieille Mine), Missouri, talk about life in the old days. They are descendants of French-Canadian voyageur-traders who settled in the Aux-Arcs mountains (Ozarks). A fragile memory that persists…
"The commune of Gençay, in Haut-Poitou, invites you to an evening of music at the Dognon.” Singer Huguette Compagnon describes the prejudices faced by speakers of the Poitevin dialect. Ethnologist Michel Valière talks about his fieldwork and explains the urgency of preserving cultural diversity in France and around the world.
In April, at sugaring off time, farmers descended from the 1837 Patriotes in Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu gather in their sugar shacks in a traditional celebration of spring in song. After the last sap is gathered, Josaphat Richer, André Richer and his clan host the families of local singers.
Florent Lemay, a talented singer and gardener to the Seigneur of Lotbinière, recalls how songs were written back in the day. His neighbour, farmer Joseph Auger, maintained this old tradition of writing songs based on events and happenings in the parish, and Lemay inherited his compositions.
Every Saturday morning on the KEUN radio station set up at Fred’s Lounge in Mamou, Revon Reed hosts local musicians. He talks about the lives of Cajuns and introduces the Deshôtels brothers, Madam Landreneau, CD Courville, and Nathan Abshire, who perform ballads, waltzes, two-steps, and blues numbers to laisser le Bon Temps rouler…
This was the name given to French-Canadian neighbourhoods that sprung up around textile mills in New England. Historian Richard Santerre and the family of Rita Paquin talk about their lives and how song nights have managed to preserve a certain Quebec heritage to this day.
Gaspé fiddler William Tremblay describes his lifestyle. In times past, Quebec’s quêteux—neither beggars nor homeless—had a social function. They were respected figures who brought news, told tales and stories, cast spells, and were often fine musicians. In exchange, they were welcomed, lodged, and fed.
Northern Ontario was developed by French-Canadian lumberjacks and miners at the turn of the 20th century. Franco-Ontarian activist Michelle Trottier talks about their hopes and struggles to have their rights respected. A forestry worker sings of and condemns his exploitation. Fiddler Olivas Gagnon plays while his neighbours dance.
Three generations of Acadian fiddlers from Baie Sainte-Marie relate their experiences and their love of music. The fiddling tradition passed from the grandfather Alfred, a lumberjack, to the father Dennis, a caulker, to the son Johnny, a fisher and professional musician. An admirable legacy in one of the oldest Acadian communities.
Farmer, singer, and fiddler Antonio Bazinet describes the hard life on rocky-soiled Laurentian farms and in logging camps. Songs and fiddle tunes such as “Envoyez de l’avant nos gens,” written by local forestry workers and based on an older theme, capture the period’s joie de vivre.
Educator and musician Jany Rouger introduces us to accomplished folk musicians from Bas-Poitou: basket maker and fiddler Paul Micheneau, and square-dance fiddler Maximin Rambaud, who leads the figures of old-style dances, a forerunner of the modern-day caller. Rouger explains why it’s so important to continue this tradition.
Initially, the Acadians lived peacefully with their ingenious system of dykes and aboiteaux, a technology they brought over from Poitou that allowed them to farm reclaimed tidal marshland without taking anything away from their Mi’kmaq allies. Ethnologist Charlotte Cormier describes what life was like, and Lamèque lumberjack Majorique Duguay expresses it in song.
Descended from slaves in the former French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti), Creoles faced discrimination in South American society—too black for some, too French for others. They developed their own style of music: Zydeco. Delton Broussard and Calvin Carrière give us a taste of it, and singer Inez Catalon talks and sings about her life in Kaplan.
Fiddler and mother Georgina Audet made it her mission to preserve the island’s square dances. She relates how, despite the harsh living conditions and opposition from the church, her father passed on a precious repertoire of songs and square dances, which she now shares at dance evenings at the Château Bél-Air.
Folklorist Charlotte Cormier relates how Acadians, having been dispossessed during the Expulsion, maintained their social cohesion and culture through oral tradition, including song. The struggle is not over, and many Acadians are concerned about the future of their people, but no one dares say the dirty words…
Chicoutimi carpenter Louis Boudreault epitomized the typical Quebec fiddler. He relates how he learned his trade and his introduction to music by his father, Idas. Having learned the dance music of the Lac Saint-Jean region from his great uncle Thomas Vaillancourt, he explains how good fiddlers learn by connecting with the dancers.
A trip to Upper Brittany, whence came the ancestors of many French-Canadians, bringing with them a wealth of songs still sung in the Gaspé region. Philippe Durand and Yann Plunier introduce us to Breton history and culture. Jeannette Maquignon and friends sing work songs, songs to dance to, and laments.
Radio host and writer Revon Reed relates that the Acadians, expelled from their land in the north, dreamed of owning land in Louisiana, and this became a hallmark of the culture. Fiddlers Aedius Naquin and Dennis McGhee talk about the life of a Cajun musician and their unique style of singing while playing, inherited from the troubadours of the Middle Ages.
An encounter with Métis ice fishers from Saint-Ambroise on Lake Manitoba. On Saturday night, we are invited to a dance called by fisher Louis Lamirande. Métis historian Antoine Lussier talks about life in his community, while former fisher Paul Lavallée sings of the accomplishments of Louis Riel and the Métis.
International star Zachary Richard talks about his journey as a musician, explaining how the American melting-pot ideology tried to eradicate Cajun culture in the U.S. After years of shame, young musicians such as the band Coteau and Michael Doucet are taking up the torch. Richard performs his resistance song “Réveille!”
Founded in 1780 by Acadian refugees, Chéticamp is today the largest Acadian community in Cape Breton (formerly Île Royale). The town’s history is related by well-known educator and Acadian activist Alexandre Boudreau, along with a story from the oral history by fisher Tom Chiasson. They express their concern for the future of the Acadians.