Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 13, No. 3, 2014
  Current Issue  
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Nancy Snipper
Louis René Beres
Daniel Charchuk
Lynda Renée
Nick Catalano
Farzana Hassan
Betsy L. Chunko
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
  Music Editors
Nancy Snipper
Serge Gamache
Diane Gordon
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward



Report filed by Robert J. Lewis
Photos by Hanna Donato


Now in its 13th year, the internationally renown Longueuil International Percussion Festival (July 6-13th) continues to evolve. From its humble origins as a small percussion festival, it is now a major, week-long, 95%-free cultural event -- with an emphasis on music -- that offers both entertainment and learning opportunities especially aimed at the young.

For an entire seven days, along a six block stretch of Old Longueuil that is closed down to traffic, a foreign culture is offered an exceptional platform to showcase its art, music, dance, indigenous colours and cuisine.

For their energy and accomplishment, the perennial organizers, France Cadieux and Gilbert Lucu, are rightfully respected for both their roles as unacknowledged ambassadors and inspired programmers. Their message is clear: they want to dissolve borders, they want to bring the margins to the center, and they are persuaded that the best time in life to learn about tolerance is during childhood – and like learning a second or third language, the younger the better.

Never before have there been so many activities planned for kids. Unlike most of Montreal’s many summer festivals, this one is first and foremost a family affair. From art, music and dance instruction to skipping rope or whisking down a slide, there was ample opportunity for kids to seamlessly have fun and learn. In the many designated areas set aside for the next generation, which included a circus stage with gymnasts and acrobats, there were monitors and baby sitters for parents who wanted to get away for a moment and try the Sapporo beer as a first introduction to this year’s invited country – Japan.

Japanese history, in its early years influenced by China, comes into its own in the 6th century with the introduction of Buddhism. From that period on, it evolves its music, language and culture and becomes one of the most respected, powerful and peaceful nations of the world. Its culture is multi-faceted and Longueuil made sure all the major facets were well served.

For purists who don’t like their drumming compromised by melody, there were several stages ( and many concerts that featured strictly percussion. We learn from taiko drumming that the Japanese have evolved their own form of percussion jazz. The lead drummers, following precise musical notation which requires being in perfect rhythmic sync, introduce a motif which becomes the take off point for a soloist drummer (like a lead guitarist) who improvises off the main theme.

The large taiko drums lend themselves to visual arts equivalent of expressionism. The no-nonsense group Raging Asian Women, for whom subtlety is a luxury not everyone can afford, entered into the public domain their frustration with the slow progress of woman’s liberation. As they whipped and whacked their batons against the tight drum skins, we suspected there was more at stake than strictly music.

For those who require a daily measure of melody and song, the Longueuil Festival is anything but a one-trick pony. Variety is its signature and mission statement. Besides classical Japanese, there were all sorts of different musics (reggae, hip hop, flamenco) to choose from on the smaller stages from noon until late at night.

To a certain extent, the appreciation of any foreign culture is always a challenge in that we are most comfortable with the one we have been raised in. This year provided an excellent opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the Japanese (oriental) pentatonic scale. In the key of C on the piano, our diatonic scale consists of 12 notes (both black and white keys). The Japanese or pentatonic scale consists of the five black keys. Our diatonic scale is more interval rich, which forces the conclusion that pentatonic music is unvarying and predictable. But even the uninformed ear could not help but to be impressed with the play and virtuoso plucking of Ryoko Itabashi on her 3-stringed shamisen guitar.

Bridging the gap between the past and present was fusion artist Likkle Mai, whose winning, high pitched, molten voice (which left the nearby windows intact) took reggae, rap and hip-hop to another level.

For the eye, there was a considerable sampling of traditional Japanese dance and art as well as a martial arts stage. There was also a mini-bar and stage dedicated to Brazilian music, and a special booth for the Bahia dancers who every year take their suppleness and sensuality to the streets in canavelesque fashion.

Japanese cuisine was out in full force. Included were the usual scrumptious suspects: sushi, tempura, but there was also a stand that offered an inside outdoor view of how takoyaki, (ginger flavoured octopus balls) are made. As word got around, the lineups for this exquisite dish got longer. Inside the Kokoro tent there were demonstrations on the preparation of the more complex Japanese dishes and sauces as well as a host of cultural events throughout the day.

The next best thing besides travelling to the actual country is to spend some time in Old Longueuil during its summer festival where the invited country extends an open invitiation to one and all to take a leisurely stroll through its customs and culture. And for this invaluable experience, nobody does it better and more comprehensively than Longueuil and its expert team of organizers and volunteers.

Next year, France will headline the party. I have a sneaking suspicion there will be at least one occasion to sample its wine and cheese. And who knows, if not polite burlesque perhaps some can-can. So until 2015, au revoir.


Photo Credits:
Photos 2,3,4,5,6,7 ©
Hanna Donato
Photos 1,8 © William Chien




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.

2014 June 23, Fête Nationale (St-Jean-Baptiste Day), featuring Paul Piché (FREE outdoor concerts St. Charles Street, City Hall).

And don't forget the FREE 2014 outdoor July 3rd concert featuring the Longueuil Symphony Orchestra and special guest Daniel Lavoie. The concert begins at 8 pm. at Parc de la Riviere-aux-Pins (in Boucherville).


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