Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 10, No. 3, 2011
  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
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




From July 13th to 17th, the Longueuil International Percussion Festival (LIPF) celebrated its 10th anniversary with bash and panache and five days of made-to-measure summer weather.

The LIPF has become one of the most anticipated summer festivals in the Province of Quebec thanks to its highly creative programming team led by the indomitable France Cadieux. The numbers speak for themselves: An erstwhile low-profile affair that initially (2001) drew 5,000 visitors has spread its wings to accommodate 150,000 – and counting.

This year’s fête featured, on successive evenings, the music and culture of Brazil, Cuba, Guadeloupe and Spain. In many ways it was an homage to World Music and its global influence. Besides the main music-and-dance Lotto Quebec stage, there were three smaller ones in the 5-block pedestrian area where you could catch some of the local talent as well as a competition of up-and-coming new groups.

from 2011 Longueuil International Percussion FestivalAmong the highlights from the main stage were Lazaro René and Asere (Cuba), Maskakle (Guadeloupe), and for aficionados of high culture, The Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company; they put on a show that featured world class dance and flamenco guitar (Nicolas Hernandez) to die for. What separates the merely good dancers from the best are that the latter refuse to use castanets to fill in for foot work they can’t provide. The group’s four women dancers, either in solo or combination, along with two wonderfully strong and affecting women’s voices, offered highly engaging, original material that makes them wholly deserving of their international reputation.

From the competition stage, the group Surkalen rose to the fore with a compelling playlist of original ethno-fusion music. The group includes two highly proficient guitarists (from Chile), the wonderfully clean and controlled voice of Sandra Ullua (Chile) and the violinist Maria Demacheva who hails from Russia. To better create their worldly sound, these multi-instrumentalists incorporated the charango (similar to the lute), tablas and the darbuka along with timely 4-part vocal harmonies the ear couldn't get enough of.

This year, the festival featured a second ‘paying’ venue located about five blocks from the main site: L'Hôte Zone, situated in a non-descript, treeless parking lot at Place Longueuil (a local mall). The organizers were hoping to offset a growing budget deficit the festival, which has been free since its inception, has been accumulating. Despite huge names -- Normand Brathwaite and internationally renowned opera singer Marie-Josée Lord -- the attendance was disappointing, which was a shame. That said, the group Insolita (along with Surkalen) represents a major discovery by the programming team.

Insolita deserved an audience in the thousands, so technically proficient and madly inspired was their combination of dance, percussion and hypnotic rock. All 13 musicians and dancers are professionally trained and can read the charts. It would have been evident to even the least astute observer that they put in not weeks but months of practice, resulting in a show that was as tight as any Las Vegas act but with the inspired addition of some agreeably brain-destabilizing, mean acid guitar and tougher than leather, dead-on vocal harmonies. I’m predicting that sooner than later they will be invited to play one of the big bashes that take place at the Montreal Jazz Festival -- shows that routinely draw 100,000 people.

from 2011 Longueuil International Percussion FestivalBut despite the slack attendance, the programmers shouldn’t despair because the reasons for it are directly related to the near-perfection of a festival whose home, from day one, has been in Old Longueuil.

On day two of the event, I met a couple from Argentina living in Vancouver for the past 20 years. From among the sundry activities that take place in Montreal during the summer, they decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary at the Longueuil Percussion Festival because they had heard (read) good things about it. They were not disappointed. They described their day in Longueuil as one of the best festival days they have ever had in their lives: they loved every minute of it, the music, the vibes, the international flavours, the impromptu dancing – and of course it was all free. When I asked if they planned to visit the L'Hôte Zone, they answered: “We’ve already had a perfectly glorious summer day – a day which can’t be improved on. Why should we leave perfect?” I hope you are reading this France Cadieux.

And that’s what the LIPF has become -- the perfect music festival that has everything, except a beach, but lest we forget, the polar icecaps are melting fast, which means Plage (Beach) Longueuil is no longer a pipe dream.

The LIPF is much more than the sum of the many concerts that take place throughout the day everyday of the festival. If you’re looking for tall trees, cool grass under the feet (and in the air) and an ambience second to none, go no farther than Park St. Mark where you’ll find a 19th century Church, a people-friendly gazebo and the best make-shift African market scene north of the Sahara. St. Mark is located in the heart of the 5-block pedestrian zone which is perhaps the unacknowledged star of the festival. The zone piéton features boutiques, booths, tents, dance ateliers, artists at work, percussion jams, mini concerts, and mini bars where you can meet up with the hospitable locals who are comfortable in both French and English and other languages. The zone is a magical miniature of the spectacle of life in all its diversity as both ear and eye are led from one happening to another, including the many open air restaurants (Italian, French, Oriental, Japanese etc) that are always packed and within view of one of the four music stages.

Next year, Mexico will be invited to share its remarkable art (murals) and music that has informed both Country & Western and the gaucho songbook of South America. And of course we're all looking forward to Mexico's muy rico cuisine and the perfect answer to a parched mouth on a hotter than July day: dos Coronas por favor.

Hasta el proximo año.


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.

2012 June 23, Fête Nationale (St-Jean-Baptiste Day), featiromg a legend in his own time, the inimitable Michel Pagliaro (FREE outdoor concert St. Charles Street, City Hall).

And don't forget the FREE 2012 outdoor July 5th, 8.00 pm concert featuring tenor Marc Hervieux and soprano Natalie Choquette and the celebrated Longueuil Symphony Orchestra in Boucherville (Parc de la Riviere-aux-Pins, 551 Chemin du Lac).


Report filed by Robert J. Lewis

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