Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 6, No. 3, 2007
  Current Issue  
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
  Contributing Editors
Bernard Dubé
Robert Rotondo
Dan Stefik
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somverville
David Solway
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward



Robert J. Lewis


Someone once said that a great city is only as great as its suburbs, and the city of Montreal is no exception. Cross Jacques Cartier’s much photographed bridge that spans the St. Lawrence River and you’ll find yourself in historic Old Longueuil, first settled in the late 1600ds.

Since the Montreal Jazz Festival ends in the first week of July, more and more tourists, whose appetites for fun and music hasn't been quenched, are looking to Longueuil to satisfy their thirst for carnival and culture, or what Quebecers refer to as la joie de vivre. The event that makes this possible is the 4-day annual International Percussion Festival (Festival International de Percussions de Longueuil), which appeals to both urban and rural sensibilities, featuring an intoxicating mix of fabulous rhythm and song.

The festivities take place on St. Charles Street that is closed to traffic for 5 blocks. Under colourful awnings (and of course blue skies), the street’s many cafés and restaurants move their tables and chairs outside. A small stage is set up in Parc St. Mark that functions like the people-friendly Mexican zocalo, with the principal stage looming tall in front of City Hall that abuts onto the fire department. from left to right: Andiara, Bia dancing with Marcos Oliviero, Paulo Ramos from 2007 International Percussion Festival of Longueuil (Quebec)In the block-long park, artisans and vendors unfold their tents beneath towering trees that surround the quaint gazebo that hosts spontaneous percussion jams and musical encounters of all kinds. Throughout the four days belly dancing, and various dance and music competitions are featured as well as numerous diversions for children. With the exception of the first day, the action begins in the early afternoon, winding down after the main concert, ‘round midnight.’ In between scheduled events, strollers can be seen taking advantage of the variety of bars and restaurants that quickly fill up. The menus are nothing less than eclectic, ranging from sushi, Szechuan/Thai/Chinese, Spanish, Lebanese, Greek, Italian – and perhaps even a French restaurant or two.

Paulo Ramos from 2007 International Percussion Festival of Longueuil (Quebec)This year’s festival paid tribute to the sensuous music and rhythms of Brazil. Paulo Ramos played the first main concert. No stranger to Montreal, he moved here from Brazil 20 years ago and has since recorded many albums and played the Montreal Jazz Festival. Andiara de Souza from 2007 International Percussion Festival of Longueuil (Quebec)His highly sophisticated guitar work ranks him among the city’s very best, on top of which he can sing like a nightingale and groove with the best of them. Then again, I’ve never met a Brazilian who couldn't dance. Paulo, along with several special guests (Bia and Andiara), superbly encapsulated Brazil's unique contribution to world music, sang mostly original sambas and bossa novas, while leaving room for percussion breaks that kept the audience on its toes for the 90 minute show.

The following night belonged to multi-talented, enchanting Bia, who has it all: beauty, elegance, energy, grace and stage presence second to none. Along with a deftly controlled, rich voice, she can play guitar and bass, and would be a professional dancer if she weren’t a singer. Her playlist included lots of original material and mesmerizing dance interludes with the foot-smooth and graceful Marcos Oliviero. Bia just might be one big hit away from superstardom. By the time she left the stage, she was everyone’s candidate for bia-tification.

The festival ended with a magnificent carnival parade that featured a bevy of dancers displaying in equal parts extravagant costumes, including lavishly feathered headdresses, and lots of flesh. From the waist down, you might have thought you were on one of Rio’s beaches. When the parade concluded, the highly skilled dance troupe that © Marcel Dubois 2007 Longueuil International Perucssioncalls itself Carnaval de Rio mounted the stage and put on a show worthy of Vegas.

No wonder Mayor Gladu was glad all over at the end of the four days. The festival went off without a hitch thanks to a highly competent team of organizers. Longueuilers are a proud, provincial people who nonetheless speak with a big city accent, which means they are exceptionally friendly, know how to have a good time and are able to appreciate the finer things in life that are always better when shared.

For a summer happening that will count high among your pleasant surprises, make Longueuil (one Metro stop after the Casino) your next stop. Besides the annual percussion festival, Parc St. Mark hosts evening concerts every Thursday, Friday and Saturday throughout the summer. With St. Charles Street hopping, who needs the traffic and noise of rue St. Denis?

Photo Credits: MARCEL DUBOIS

Celebrate Longueuil's 350th Anniversary, Aug. 2nd, 2007, Parc Regional.

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