From bossa nova to celtic folk, reggae to zydeco, the musical rhythms in Montreal are as diverse and exciting as its people. The city is a hotbed of world music year-round, but goes into high gear during the summer festival season. Here are some highlights for 2016:
The organizers of Les Francofolies de Montréal, which showcases music from the French-speaking world from June 9 to 18, as well as the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, the world’s biggest music festival which runs from June 29 to July 9, regularly feature world-music performers.
One of Montréal’s most colourful and exciting parades, Carifiesta, is a tradition born of slavery in Trinidad and Tobago, when French colonial masters hosted huge masquerade balls three days before Ash Wednesday. Slaves got a day off and mimicked their masters at their own parties, a tradition that morphed into Trinidad’s famed Carnival. That tradition migrated north to such cities as Miami, New York and Montréal. Each year Montréal’s competing floats “play mas” (as in masquerade) at Carifiesta. This year’s 41st annual parade is expected to draw 100,000 spectators along downtown Rue Ste-Catherine on Saturday, July 2.
Each summer the City of Montreal hosts its hugely popular Week-ends du monde at Parc Jean-Drapeau on Ile-Ste-Hélene. The music and cuisine of several countries such as Jamaica and Brazil will be celebrated from July 9 to 10 and July 16 to 17. There are plenty of children’s daytime activities slated from 2 to 6 p.m., then the site features adult programming until 11 p.m. Free admission. The full program will be announced in mid-June.
Since 1987, the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique has booked many of the world’s great world music entertainers, everybody from Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo to the Lion of Zimbabwe, chimurenga superstar Thomas Mapfumo. The 30th edition of Nuit d’Afriques runs July 12 – 24 with a series of ticketed indoor shows and free outdoor concerts.
The 39th annual Montreal Highland Games celebrates Scottish culture on July 31 at Parc Arthur-Therrien in the Montreal borough of Verdun, with Scottish fiddle demonstrations, highland dancing and band competitions.
The 26th edition of the Montreal First Peoples Festival will take place in Montreal’s outdoor Quartier des Spectacles from August 2 to 9, with a series of music concerts, street theatre and the NuestroAmericana Friendship Parade.
The Montreal International Steelpan Festival features steelpan groups and soloists from the Caribbean, USA, and Canada. The date (usually the first weekend of July) has not yet been announced. For more information, visit steelpanplus.com.
The 13th annual Montreal International Reggae Festival returns to the Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port of Montréal, from August 26 to 28. The festival has grown into one of the best reggae festivals in North America and a must-stop for top international reggae and dancehall performers.
The 17th edition of the Arab World Festival of Montréal (Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal) runs from October 28 to November 13. The multi-disciplinary festival is the only event of its kind in North America, and features concerts, cinema, dance and theatre by artists from around the world.
Year-round, music fans can see top world-music acts headlining Montreal’s iconic Club Balattou . A who’s who has played in this small and intimate venue over the years – many making their North American debuts, including Papa Wemba, Baaba Maal, Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour and Angélique Kidjo. Congolese entertainer Dally Kimoko even wrote a song about the famed nightclub, called Balattou à Montréal. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 p.m. to closing.
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