Ever had that amazing sense of deja vu? As I was in my local Texas Barnes and Noble, I heard an in-store CD that shocked me for its obscurity; I was sure that the voice belonged to one of the members of Kashtin, a First Nations Innu band from Quebec that had disbanded some time ago as both members pursued solo careers. I thought "that's impossible, why would they be playing Quebecois First Nations music in Texas? And from a band as obscure as Kashtin?" (Kashtin's Akua Tuta received airplay on the Due South: The Original Television Soundtrack). I ran back to the music department only to find that Putumayo's latest compilation embraced my first love, Quebec.
As someone who has a French major with an emphasis on Quebec Studies and studied for two summers at Universite Laval in Ste-Foy, Quebec, I can attest that this special anniversary CD (the 400th anniversary of Quebec City's founding by Champlain) is a bit eclectic to thoroughly represent the broad range of Quebecois music, but it makes a brave attempt. This ranges from call-and-response courtesy of well-known Quebecois bands La Bottine Souriante (Anthologie) and Le Vent Du Nord (Maudite Moisson !)to more modern fusion stylings from DobaCaracol, a track from Annie Villeneuve (Quand Je Ferme Les Yeux), the winner of Quebec's version of Pop Idol, and a nod to Quebec's rich First Nations heritage (there are eleven tribes) from Florent Vollant.
I wasn't familiar with many of the artists (it's been six years since I lived in Quebec City), but I could think of many Quebecois artists that I wish had been included, such as Lhasa (La Llorona), whose haunting voice blends Spanish, English and French with a fusion of Mexican and world influences, early important pop figures such as Felix Leclerc (20th Century Masters) or Gilles Vigneault, or modern sensations such as Celine Dion (On Ne Change Pas), Garou (Reviens), Roch Voisine (Roch: Best of Roch Voisine), Eric Lapointe, etc. My personal favorites are the two most traditional tracks from La Bottine Souriante and Le Vent Du Nord (I have a large collection of traditional Quebecois folk music) and the haunting track sung in Montagnais by Florent Vollant; his solo CDs (Katak) are sung entirely in Montagnais (an Algonquin language) and are absolutely amazing, though pricey for those of us south of the (Canadian) border.
But these tantalizing tracks are an accurate reflection of the many cultural influences at work in Quebec, from First Nations tribes to its many Francophone immigrants from Africa and abroad, and Putumayo: Quebec serves as a perfect jumping-off point for a more in-depth exploration of the riches that Quebec's music has to offer.