Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 11, No. 3, 2012
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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
Denis Beaumont
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 Lewis

The annual and much anticipated Longueuil International Percussion Festival (LIPF), a summer celebration of music and culture, keeps getting better and better. Under the expert and inspired leadership of Gilbert Lucu and programming prodigy France Cadieux, the festival continues to evolve, and now, deservedly, attracts tourists from around the world. I overheard -- at one of the makeshift mini bars on the pedestrian-only, festive rue St. Charles -- a German, Japanese and American communicating in the lingua franca of this year’s festivities: mas Tequila por favor.

For the occasion of the 11th edition of the LIPF (July 10-15th), wonderfully provided for by the weather gods that didn’t miss a beat, the amazing music and culture of Mexico was featured.

©Robert Lewis -- 2012 Longueuil Percussion FestivalThe relationship between Quebec and Mexico is as precious as it is practical: we invade them in winter to escape ours, while they come north looking for place and opportunity.

If Canada is a relatively young country, Mexico’s formal history goes back to 2,000 BC. In recognition of its profound and eventful past, the organizers constructed a simulacrum of a Mayan temple in the heart of the festival site, satisfying both aesthetic and pedagogical curiosity. Inside the temple were video documentaries, murals of glyphs, plinths and calendars from the classical Mayan Age (250 to 900 AD), guided tours, and a stage where all day long both traditional and modern dance and music were performed.

Visitors who have been to both Mexico and the festival temple emerged from the latter (and not necessarily the former) wiser and more appreciative of the subtleties and nuances of Mexican culture, especially its rituals and unsurpassed architecture. And for impressionable children whose minds are like sponges, the experience doubtlessly opened their horizons to the richness and diversity of the world and world culture. What became very apparent as the festival unfolded is the ease with which ancient Mexican art forms lend themselves to modernity. Mexican culture is dynamic and constantly evolving and the festival organizers made certain that fact was given its due.

It bears repeating, even though the reputation of the festival has grown by leaps and bounds, that©Robert Lewis -- Park St. Mark - 2012 Longueuil Percussion Festival the LIPF is “the complete festival,” which is why record numbers turn out year after year (200,000 in 2012). Everything and more is there -- and it’s 99% free.

The visiting country is honoured with full treatment and coverage in an hospitable and eye-friendly environment that includes turn of the century provincial architecture fronted by a profusion of the region’s legendary maple and oak trees.

This year, the centrally located Park St. Mark served as the local zocalo (public plaza), lending itself to a rest area and meeting place, an elaborate children’s playground, and an extensive market place where not only Mexican fare and food were available but also handmade crafts and percussion instruments from Africa.

During the festival, there is so much happening everywhere it’s hard to decide what to take in. ©Robert Lewis -- Mamselle 2012 Longueuil Percussion FestivalThere’s always a concert to catch or one can take a leisurely stroll along the incomparable rue St. Charles, where from one minute to the next you never know what’s going to erupt. If it’s your thirst or appetite, you’ll find watering holes and ethnic snack bars on every corner and in between, there’s a huge selection of outdoor restaurants offering the menu equivalent of world music. From the many booths that line both sides of the pedestrian-only thoroughfare, you’ll happen upon instructional schools especially geared for children and adolescents. They not only offer samples of their programming but exciting live demonstrations of, for example, from Arthur Murray and Bahia Dance Studio workshops, salsa, merengue, line dancing and break dancing; there were also group percussion jams, belly dancing pointers and lessons in the visual arts. If, according to Australian novelist Patrick White, “a party is everyone’s responsibility,” no one does it better than Longueuil. From the opening hours of the festival until closing time, rue St. Charles is a party that doesn’t end.

©Robert Lewis -- 2012 Longueuil Percussion FestivalThere was more music than ever at this year’s event, with concerts programmed from the afternoon until late into the night. Two stages were dedicated to encouraging the development of new talent in both dance and music. And for folklore enthusiasts, there was a super abundance of authentic colour and costumes.

Among the many concert highlights from the main Lotto Quebec stage were Mamselle Ruiz, recently arrived from Mexico City, and from Cancun, the highly engaging group Chak, whose plaintive melody lines were infused with rock and reggae beats as well as note-perfect, three-part harmonies that won over the large crowd. Mamselle’s mostly original music featured highly original, jazz-inflected horn arrangements with very unusual but evocative pairings of trumpet or sax with voice. We can expect to hear a lot more from both groups in the future.

Next year, Australia, a country that for 40,000 years before the arrival of the Europeans was home to the Aboriginals, will be the festival’s special guest. I’m looking forward to going on a Walkabout, learning about the Dreamtime, the haunting sounds of the didgeridoo, the secrets of cooking kangaroo, and trading tall tales with Crocodile Dundee.

Until then, mate.



©Robert Lewis -- ©Robert Lewis -- 2012 Longueuil Percussion Festival


©Robert Lewis -- 2012 Longueuil Percussion Festival


2012 Longueuil Percussion Festival


2012 Longueuil Percussion Festival

2012 Longueuil Percussion Festival


©Robert Lewis -- ©Robert Lewis -- 2012 Longueuil Percussion Festival


If you have already decided that Old Longueuil is where you want to spend more time, don’t forget the FREE summer concerts that take place every Friday and Saturday in St. Mark Park.

2013 June 23, Fête Nationale (St-Jean-Baptiste Day), featuring Brigitte Boisjoli, Judi Richards and Kevin Parent (FREE outdoor concerts St. Charles Street, City Hall).

And don't forget the FREE 2013 outdoor Aug. 8th, concert featuring tenor Marc Hervieux and Coeur de Pirate with the celebrated Longueuil Symphony Orchestra. The concert begins at 8 pm. at Park Michel Chartrand in Longueuil, corner of Adoncour and Curé Poirier.


Report filed by Robert J. Lewis

Photos © Robert J. Lewis

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