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The Federation of Canadian Music Festivals is the umbrella organisation for 230+
local and provincial festivals.
It is a charitable, not-for-profit Canadian organization of volunteers from
across the country serving tens of thousands of young musicians.
All music festivals with membership in the Federation share the mutual objective
of providing educational and performance opportunities for young artists from
every level, with professional adjudicators offering supportive critiques of
The Federation's main objective is the development and encouragement of Canadian
talent in the performance and knowledge of classical music. At every level in
the festival movement, young artists learn from each other as well as from
formal adjudications by internationally respected adjudicators.
Music festivals provide an excellent public performance opportunity for
students. As students progress to higher levels of competition, they find
festivals an incentive to continue the pursuit of excellence.
The history of music of Canada has mirrored the history and evolution of the
country. From early British-style patriotic songs and the folk traditions of the
many founding cultures, to the international success of cutting-edge alternative
music bands, music has been an ever evolving part of Canada's cultural life. In
recent decades, Canadian music, in all its forms, has come to be one of the most
fully developed expressions of the Canadian identity. The country's tradition of
folk music, with its basis in every region and community in the country, is
complemented by strong domestic and international contributions to popular
From artists like country singer Hank Snow in the 1950s, to the hard rock of
bands like Rush and The Guess Who in 1960s and 1970s, to worldwide pop stars
like Bryan Adams, Céline Dion, Shania Twain, in the 1980s and 1990s, to the
promise of the current wave of the Canadian sound typified by performers as
diverse as the Arcade Fire, k-os, and Alexisonfire, music has become the
country's most successful and well-known contribution to global culture.
Canadian popular music
Before the explosion of modern popular music in the 1950s, Canada produced
several notable stars. Bea Lillie of the World War I era, songwriter Shelton
Brooks, doo wop group The Four Lads, bandleader Guy Lombardo, pop stars Gisele
MacKenzie and Robert Goulet, jazz virtuosos Maynard Ferguson, Moe Koffman, and
Oscar Peterson, and pop-country stars Wilf Carter and Hank Snow were all
After Elvis Presley's rockabilly style reached Canada in 1955, The Four Lads
became one of the most prominent groups of the Canadian white R&B scene, which
also included The Diamonds and The Crew Cuts. Crooner Paul Anka, however, became
the first major pop star from Canada.
Within Canada, artists are recognized with Juno Awards and induction into the
Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Canadian popular styles
Canadian country music
Country music evolved out of the diverse musical practices of the Appalachian
region of the United States. Appalachian folk music was largely Scottish and
Irish, with an important influence also being the African American country
blues. Parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Maritime provinces shared a
tradition with the Appalachian region, and country music became popular quite
quickly in these places. Fiddlers like George Wade and Don Messer helped to
popularize the style, beginning in the late 1920s. Wade was not signed until the
1930s, when Victor Record's, inspired by the success of Wilf Carter the year
before, signed him, Hank Snow and Hank LaRivière.
Canadian country as developed by Carter, Snow and Earl Heywood, used a less
nasal and more distinctly pronounced vocal style than American music, and stuck
with more traditional ballads and narratives while American country began to use
more songs about bars and lovers quarrels. This style of country music became
very popular in Canada over the next couple decades. Later popular Canadian
country stars range from Stompin' Tom Connors to Shania Twain.
Radio and television stations in Canada which play country music, however, are
often more flexible in how they define the genre than their counterparts in the
United States. Canadian country stations frequently play artists more commonly
associated with folk music, such as Bruce Cockburn, Leahy and The Rankin Family.
Jazz is a genre of African American music (with influences from French
Impressionism era music), present in Canada since at least the 1910s. In 1919
and 1920 in Vancouver, Jelly Roll Morton, a legendary New Orleans pianist,
played with his band. During this period, Canadian groups such as the Winnipeg
Jazz Babies and the Westmount Jazz Band of Montreal also found regional acclaim.
During the swing boom of the late 1930s and early 1940s, Canada produced such
notable bandleaders as Ellis McLintock, Bert Niosi, Jimmy Davidson, Mart Kenney,
Stan Wood, and Sandy De Santis. In the 1940s, Bert Niosi and Oscar Peterson
became widely known. Peterson became internationally acclaimed, and is a
widely-respected Canadian jazz musician.
During the 70s and 80s, the Jazz Fusion band Uzeb was a well known domestic and
international jazz group.
In the 2000s, the best known Canadian jazz artist are the singer and pianist
Diana Krall, and Molly Johnson.
The blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the use of the blue
notes, often with a repetitive twelve-bar structure, which evolved in the United
States in the communities of former African slaves. Canadian blues refers to the
blues and blues-related music (e.g. blues-rock, folk blues, etc.) performed by
blues bands and performers in Canada.
In Canada, there are hundreds of local and regionally-based Canadian blues bands
and performers. As well, there is a smaller number of bands or performers that
have achieved national or international prominence. These bands and performers
are part of a broader Canadian "blues scene" that also includes city or regional
blues societies, blues radio shows, and blues festivals.
A small number of Canadian blues bands and artists have achieved national or
international prominence by touring across Canada, the US, or Europe, and
releasing recordings that have received critical or audience acclaim in Canada
and abroad. The performers below are listed according to the decade during which
they first achieved national or international prominence:
1960s: Ronnie Hawkins
1970s: The Downchild Blues Band; Norman "Dutch" Mason
1980s: David Wilcox; The Powder Blues; Jeff Healey
1990s: Colin James
2000s: Jack de Keyzer; Sue Foley
Canadian blues recording labels include: NorthernBlues Music (launched in 2001
by President Fred Litwin); Stony Plain Records, an Alberta-based label founded
by Holger Petersen; and Electro-Fi Records [www.electrofi.com], launched in 1997
by founder and president Andrew Galloway.
Canadian blues societies help to promote the appreciation and performance of
blues music. Blues societies are often involved in the organization or promotion
of local blues festivals and educational activities. Blues society educational
activities include presentations on blues history, elementary school "outreach"
activities, and workshops. Some blues societies organize awards for blues
Gaining speed in the west of Canada, the electronica scene grows rapidly within
most major centres. Winnipeg has given rise to quirky sound-artist "Vitaminsforyou."
Albertan electronica musicians include: Mark Templeton, Escapist Opportunities,
and organizers "Electronic Music Calgary," creating venues throughout the
province, though mainly in Calgary.
Chansonniers were Quebecois singer-songwriters from the 1950s and 60s. They sang
simple, poetic songs with a social conscience. The first chansonniers were La
Bolduc, Raymond Lévesque and Félix Leclerc. It was not until the 60s, however,
that chansonniers became such a major part of the Quebecois music scene. This
was largely due to the formation of Les Bozos in 1959. Les Bozos was an informal
collective of chansonniers, including Lévesque, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Claude
Léveillée, Clémence Desrochers, Talon Starsdawn, and Jacques Blanchet.
With the first stars popularizing the chansonnier format, a new generation of
popular singers emerged in the 60s. These included Gilles Vigneault, Pierre
Létourneau, Pierre Calvé, Hervé Brousseau, Georges Dor, Monique
Miville-Deschênes, and Claude Gauthier. The bo?tes à chansons, a kind of
performance place for chansonniers (akin to coffee houses in the United States),
also appeared during the 1960s, spread across Quebec.
The Chansonnier tradition has continued with artists who have been carrying on
since the 1970s to the present. One good example is Diane Dufresne who also is
prolific in the area of cabaret or theatre-rock.
Ronnie Hawkins, an Arkansas-born rockabilly singer, became the most prominent
figure in Canadian rock beginning in 1958. He did more than any other to
popularize Canadian hard rock. He formed a backing band called The Hawks, which
produced some of the earliest Canadian rock stars. Among them were the members
of The Band, who began touring with Bob Dylan in 1966 and then struck out on
their own in 1968, releasing well-remembered albums like Music from Big Pink and
Often, however, Canadian records were simply covers of American or British pop
hits. One important example was a Winnipeg band called Chad Allan & the
Expressions, who had a 1965 hit with a version of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates' "Shakin'
All Over". Folkier singers like Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen,
Denny Doherty (of The Mamas & the Papas), David Clayton-Thomas, Neil Young, Andy
Kim, Zal Yanovsky (of The Lovin' Spoonful), John Kay (of Steppenwolf), and Ian &
Sylvia also found international audiences. Their success paved the way for a new
wave of Canadian singer-songwriters, including Stan Rogers, Murray McLauchlan,
Bruce Cockburn and Willie P. Bennett.
The Guess Who
The decks stacked as they were against Canadian artists building successful
long-term careers, the Expressions wanted radio stations and record buyers to
believe they were a British Merseybeat band in disguise. So when they released
their debut album, it didn't bear their own name — instead, it was labelled
"Guess", And record executive was confused by this, so he put down "Guess Who?"
as a joke, and then it became the band's permanent name.
The ruse worked, and within a few years The Guess Who were one of Canada's
biggest musical names. To this day, their best-known songs ("American Woman",
"Share the Land", "These Eyes", etc.) remain among Canada's most enduring
classic rock anthems.
In 1970, the Canadian government introduced new Canadian content regulations,
requiring AM radio stations to devote 30 per cent of their musical selections to
Canadian content. Although this was (and still is) controversial, it quite
clearly contributed to the development of a nascent Canadian pop star system.
The Juno Awards were first held in 1971, partially as an attempt to revitalize
the Canadian pop industry.
The most immediate effect of the Canadian content regulations was the sudden
rise to fame of Anne Murray, whose 1970 "Snowbird" was a multi-million selling
record. Led by The Guess Who, Murray, Lighthouse, the Poppy Family and The Irish
Rovers, the early 1970s were a golden age for Canadian music. Following in these
pioneers' footsteps was a wave of new bands, including April Wine, Triumph, The
Stampeders, Five Man Electrical Band, Crowbar, Trooper, FM, Fludd, Saga, Prism,
The Canadian music industry was still nascent, however, with little independent
music media and a limited distribution infrastructure. The two most
internationally renowned bands to arise from this industry were Bachman-Turner
Overdrive and Rush, both dominated by powerful managers. Bachman-Turner
Overdrive's manager, Bruce Allen, went on to Loverboy and eventually manage such
major pop stars as Bryan Adams, Martina McBride, and Anne Murray.
Diversification in the late 1970s
Canadian pop music evolved with the times, reflecting worldwide trends. In the
late 1970s, as punk rock and disco ruled the landscape, Canadian punkers such as
The Diodes, D.O.A.., The Viletones, The Forgotten Rebels, Pointed Sticks, Rough
Trade, Teenage Head, The Demics, and The Young Canadians were there, along with
disco divas like Patsy Gallant, Lisa Dalbello, France Joli, and Claudja Barry.
Rockers such as Sweeney Todd, Nick Gilder, Red Rider, Doucette, Triumph, Dan
Hill, Trooper, Prism and rockers Max Webster were also significant in the late
Number one in a field of one was avant-garde electronic rocker Nash The Slash,
whose first EP Bedside Companion was released in 1978.
Canadian cultural critics have noted that in general, the late 1970s were a
lesser era for Canadian music. Many of the acts who had defined the earlier half
of the decade were no longer recording, and the new artists emerging in this era
simply didn't seem to be able to capture the Canadian pop zeitgeist in the same
way. Many of them, in fact, were only "one-hit wonders".
However, a number of established Canadian acts, including Rush, Bruce Cockburn,
Gino Vannelli, April Wine and Neil Young, remained influential and recorded some
of their most popular material of all during this period, and former Guess Who
lead singer Burton Cummings emerged as a popular solo artist. Another of this
period's most influential and popular rock bands, Heart, resulted from the
collaboration of two sisters from Seattle with a supporting band from Vancouver.
Some of Canada's most influential folk artists also emerged in this era, notably
Stan Rogers, Ferron, Murray McLauchlan, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
In the 1970s, chansonniers grew steadily less popular with the encroachment of
popular rock bands and other artists. Some performers did emerge, however,
including Jacques Michel, Claude Dubois, and Robert Charlebois.
Joni Mitchell, one of the most influential folk and popular music singer
songwriters of the 20th century, is also Canadian, born in Alberta.
When New Wave became popular in the early 1980s, acts such as The Parachute
Club, Rough Trade, Spoons, Trans-X, Rational Youth, Men Without Hats, Norman
Iceberg, Images in Vogue, and Martha and the Muffins were along for the ride.
(Rough Trade were particularly notable for "High School Confidential", one of
the first explicitly lesbian-themed pop songs to crack the Top 40 anywhere in
The 1980s also produced mainstream pop-rockers such as Bryan Adams, Tom
Cochrane, Platinum Blonde, Glass Tiger, Honeymoon Suite, Coney Hatch, Headpins,
Helix, Toronto, Sheriff and Corey Hart. As well, the era produced the quirky
art-pop of Jane Siberry -- who never exactly became a pop star, but remains one
of Canada's most enduring cult artists — and the country cowpunk of k.d. lang,
who did eventually become one of pop music's biggest names. Lisa Dalbello, who
had emerged in the late 1970s as a dance-pop singer, also transformed herself
into a darker, edgier art-rocker, shedding her first name and becoming simply
Dalbello in 1984. Another musician from this period, Annette Ducharme, has had
more success as a songwriter for other musicians than as a recording artist.
In the late 1980s, the Canadian recording industry continued to produce popular
acts such as Alannah Myles, Tú, Blue Rodeo, Andrew Cash, Barney Bentall, Jeff
Healey, Chalk Circle, Kim Mitchell, Frozen Ghost, Sass Jordan, and Colin James.
However, alternative rock also emerged as an influential genre, with independent
artists such as 54-40, The Tragically Hip, Sarah McLachlan, Spirit of the West,
The Waltons, Cowboy Junkies, The Pursuit of Happiness, and The Grapes of Wrath
all gaining their first widespread attention during this time.
Also notable is Canadian progressive thrash metal band Voivod, who were and are
highly respected in the Metal community.
The 1980s were also notable for the emergence of several media outlets which
transformed the Canadian music scene by providing new venues for artists to
promote their music.
Toronto radio station CFNY emerged as an influential player in Canadian music
during the New Wave era. It was the first commercial radio station in Canada to
support many of Canada's new and emerging artists, as well as alternative
artists from the United States and Great Britain. It retained its tastemaker
status throughout the decade, until new owners in 1989 tried to turn it into a
conventional Top 40 station.
CFNY also created the U-Knows, which later became the CASBY Awards, to promote
and honour independent and alternative artists.
As in the United States, music videos became an important marketing tool for
bands in the early 1980s. With the debut of MuchMusic in 1984 and MusiquePlus in
1986, both English and French Canadian musicians had outlets to promote their
music through video. The networks, however, were not just an opportunity for
artists to get their videos played -- the networks created VideoFACT, a fund to
help emerging artists produce their videos.
While the alternative revolution of the 1990s was kicked off in the United
States by Nirvana and in the United Kingdom by The Stone Roses, in Canada it was
ignited by an unassuming demo tape by the Barenaked Ladies. After the Yellow
Tape became the hottest item in Canadian record stores in the fall of 1991,
Barenaked-mania took the country by storm — in turn, paving the way for an
explosion of Canadian bands to rule the airwaves.
The roster of artists emerging in this decade includes The Tea Party, Matthew
Good Band, Sloan, The Gandharvas, Change of Heart, Skydiggers, Eric's Trip, the
Doughboys, Crash Test Dummies, The Lowest of the Low, 13 Engines, Odds,
Killjoys, I Mother Earth, Age of Electric, The Rankin Family, Alanis Morissette,
Rheostatics, Ashley MacIsaac, Susan Aglukark, Our Lady Peace, The Philosopher
Kings, Junkhouse, Treble Charger, Deborah Cox, Jann Arden, Ron Sexsmith, Hayden,
Céline Dion, Rufus Wainwright, Crash Vegas, Loreena McKennitt, and Shania Twain.
The Barenaked Ladies didn't just clear the way for alternative bands, but for a
whole new Canadian pop landscape, defined by a national pride and self-confident
distinctiveness that had never been seen before in Canadian music.
Few bands benefited more from that landscape, however, than The Tragically Hip.
Unlike the Guess Who, The Tragically Hip's lyrics proudly wore their Canadian
perspective on their sleeves. And while the Hip have yet to achieve the level of
success outside of Canada, it finally didn't matter: their Canadian fan base
alone was enough to sustain a long, healthy career.
Alanis Morissette, too, kicked off another revolution in Canadian music. Just as
Dalbello had a decade earlier, Morissette began as a dance-pop artist before
transforming herself into an alternative rocker in 1995. However, Morissette's
transformation launched an era in which Canadian women ruled the pop charts
In the late 1990s, Morissette, Shania Twain, Céline Dion and Sarah McLachlan
were arguably the four most popular and influential recording artists in the
world, but several other Canadian women made waves of their own. Deborah Cox's
1998 single "Nobody's Supposed to be Here" was the longest-running chart topper
in the history of Billboard magazine's R&B charts, Jann Arden scored an
international hit with "Insensitive".
Also in the late 1990s, Elton John's 1997 re-recording of "Candle in the Wind"
in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales spent almost two years on the Canadian Top
40 charts, substantially longer than in any other country. This was, in fact, a
structural quirk of the Canadian market rather than a reflection on Canadian
tastes in music — whereas some countries combine radio airplay and sales into a
unified hits chart, in Canada these are separate charts. So few CD singles are
available in Canadian record stores, in fact, that in some weeks, a single that
is available on CD can chart on sales of fewer than 100 copies.
Canadian hip hop
Canadian hip hop developed much more slowly than the rock scene. Although Canada
certainly had hip hop artists right from the early days of the scene, the
infrastructure simply wasn't there to get their music to the record-buying
public. Even Toronto, Canada's largest and most multicultural city, had
difficulty getting an urban music station on the radio airwaves until 2000, so
even if a Canadian hip-hop artist could get signed, it was exceedingly difficult
for them to get exposure.
Devon, Maestro Fresh Wes and Dream Warriors did manage, for a brief time in the
late 80s and early 90s, to break through to mainstream pop. In 1991, Milestone
Radio applied to the CRTC for an urban station in Toronto, which would have been
the first such station in Canada, but that application was denied in favour of a
country music station (something which Toronto already had on its radio dial.)
The decision was controversial, and hurt the Canadian hip hop scene
considerably. Only one Canadian rapper, Michie Mee, made an appearance on the
national pop charts between 1992 and 1998 -- and even she only managed it by
partnering with the hard rock band Raggadeath. (Snow, who had a hit in 1993 with
"Informer", is sometimes mistakenly labelled a rapper, but in fact was more
accurately described as dancehall than as hip hop.)
It should be noted that many American hip-hop bands were popular in Canada, and
that Black Canadian musicians such as Infidels, Deborah Cox and The Philosopher
Kings had notable successes in the pop and rock genres. But for Canadian
hip-hoppers, by and large the door was closed.
That began to change in 1997, when several pivotal events occurred in close
succession: Dubmatique broke through as the first Quebec rap band to top the
francophone pop charts, the Vancouver hip hop band Rascalz gathered an all-star
crew of emerging Canadian rappers to record the anthem "Northern Touch", which
beat the odds to become the first Canadian hip hop hit in half a decade, and a
controversy erupted in Toronto when Milestone was again passed over for an urban
radio station. Instead, the CBC was awarded 99.1 to move its existing Radio One
station from the AM band -- and, ominously, this was believed at the time to be
the last available FM frequency in the city.
Then, in 1998, Rascalz refused the Juno Award for Best Rap Recording, citing
that the award was presented during the non-televised portion of the ceremony
along with the technical awards. Stung by the allegation of racism, the Junos
moved the Rap award to the main ceremony the following year. Also that year,
Maestro Fresh Wes, now known simply as Maestro, broke Canadian hip-hop's hit
jinx, with "Stick to Your Vision" becoming his first chart hit since 1991.
Hip-hop and trip-hop acts such as Esthero, Choclair, Saukrates and Kardinal
Offishall were also beginning to make waves in the press, as the Rascalz
controversy and Maestro's comeback renewed attention on Canadian hip-hop.
In the same year, the CBC's Toronto station completed its move to FM. Because
the FM frequency offered better broadcast coverage, the CBC found that it was
able to surrender two repeater transmitters serving communities outside of the
In 1999, the CRTC held hearings to assign the two FM frequencies surrendered by
the CBC in 1998. One of the frequencies was awarded to Milestone, on the
company's third application. (The other frequency was awarded to Aboriginal
Voices for a station to serve First Nations communities.)
In 2000, CBC Television created and aired Drop the Beat, a television series
about hip hop music and culture.
Finally, in 2001, Milestone's CFXJ (Flow 93.5) debuted as Canada's first urban
music station. Urban stations quickly followed in several other Canadian cities,
as well, and for the first time, Canadian hip-hop artists had a network of radio
outlets for their music. Swollen Members, Nelly Furtado, k-os, Buck 65, Sixtoo,
Jully Black, Jarvis Church, Shawn Desman, Glenn Lewis, Remy Shand, Eternia, and
Toya Alexis were among the rap and R&B acts to benefit from this new era in
The 2000s have provided a number of new Canadian pop stars as well, with such
acts as Skye Sweetnam, Nelly Furtado, Avril Lavigne, Sam Roberts, Nickelback,
Shawn Desman, Simple Plan, Jacynthe, Hawksley Workman, Melissa Auf der Maur,
Jarvis Church, Hot Hot Heat, Sarah Harmer, Prozzak, Sum 41, Pilate, The Trews,
Billy Talent, Marie-Mai, Alexisonfire, Extreme metal group Strapping Young Lad,
Bedouin Soundclash and Kathleen Edwards emerging during this era. Canadian
hip-hop, which is discussed more extensively in a previous section, also finally
made its mainstream breakthrough with the 2001 debut of Flow 93.5, Canada's
first urban music radio station, in Toronto.
The decade has also been notable for a surprising number of ambitious indie rock
albums by bands such as Tegan and Sara, The New Pornographers, Arcade Fire,
Broken Social Scene, The Hidden Cameras, The Dears, The Constantines, Metric,
The Weakerthans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Stars, Death from Above 1979,
Feist, Wolf Parade, The Stills, Final Fantasy, The Unicorns, Royal City, Cuff
the Duke, Black Mountain, Wax Mannequin, Chad VanGaalen, The Meligrove Band, Jim
Guthrie, Veda Hille, Islands and Sunset Rubdown. Canada has also produced acts
of a more avant-garde nature; better known acts such as the new-wave slanted Les
Georges Leningrad and AIDS Wolf, comprised of members of the printmaking
collective, Serigraphie Populaire, or Seripop. These two acts have achieved a
certain notoriety in circles embracing a more noise-oriented aesthetic, similar
to that of international acts such as Lightning Bolt or Boredoms. Each of these
bands has attracted a large following by pursuing unique interpretations of pop
and rock music, subverting many of the conventions of the genres in a way that
is still fresh and accessible. The Canadian indie rock scene has been the focus
of national and international attention in many publications, such as Spin, The
New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, as well the Canadian edition of Time
Canada is also known for producing a number of unique metal acts, such as
Extreme metal group Strapping Young Lad, Progressive metal/Melodic Death Metal
band Into Eternity, Power metal group 3 Inches of Blood, and Alternative metal
An influential musical tastemaker in this era has been the television show
Canadian Idol. Like its counterparts Pop Idol and American Idol, the Canadian
show offered audiences an interactive contest to crown a pop star. The series
attracted huge audiences, ultimately choosing Ryan Malcolm as its first winner.
While Malcolm did subsequently have a couple of Top 40 hits, his post-Idol album
was panned by music critics, and did not sell as well as had been hoped. It
remains to be seen whether Malcolm can build a long-term career on his Idol
However, as with the American series, other Idol contestants — most notably
Billy Klippert, Gary Beals and Toya Alexis — have also been offered recording
deals as a result of their Idol exposure, and may also emerge as major pop stars
On September 16, 2004, Kalan Porter was named as the second Canadian Idol,
winning over Theresa Sokyrka. Both winner, runner-up, and third-place contestant
Jacob Hoggard have released mainstream records (Jacob with band Hedley). Melissa
O'Neil became the third winner — and the first female winner — on September 14,
2005, narrowly winning over runner-up Rex Goudie. She was followed by Eva Avila
In 2006 the Canadian Idol contestants were recognized by the Juno Awards with
eight nominations, including Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, Pop Album of
the Year, Rock Album of the Year, and New Group of the Year.
Canadian artists have had a significant impact on industrial music worldwide,
and Canada is considered by many to be one of the birthplaces of modern
The first wave of Canadian industrial was born out of the Juno Award winning New
Wave act, Images in Vogue. From this Vancouver-based band, guitarist Don Gordon
went on to found Numb, and percussionist Kevin Crompton left in 1985 to focus on
his side project, Skinny Puppy. Quickly signed to Nettwerk Records, the band is
considered by many to be the single most influential industrial act of all time.
Out of this environment also came Front Line Assembly, formed by former Skinny
Puppy member Bill Leeb in 1986. Joined by Rhys Fulber (and later by Chris
Peterson), FLA became one of the most commercially successful electro-industrial
acts of the 90s, and spawned a host of sideprojects, including (but not limited
to) Conjure One, Pro-Tech, Syn?sthesia, Will, Intermix, Noise Unit, Equinox,
Cyberaktif, Mutual Mortuary, and the vastly successful Delerium, which began
life as an ambient project.
Canadian classical music
Classical music in Canada is performed by a variety of orchestras, such as the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and many smaller
orchestras and groups; such as the Canadian Brass.
Several important musicians of international stature were born and raised in
Canada. These include the pianist Glenn Gould, violinist Lara St. John, tenor
Ben Heppner, soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, and many more.
With regard to composition, the earliest composers of classical music in Canada
were generally Quebecois Catholics who wrote religious music. In the twentieth
century Canada has had many internationally-known composers, such as R. Murray
Schafer, Srul Irving Glick, John Beckwith, Louis Applebaum, Violet Archer and
Music of Canada's Regions
Canadian folk music includes Acadian, Québécois, English, Irish, Scottish and
First Nations and Inuit forms, as well as other genres from immigrant
communities representing Vietnam, Haiti, India, China, and other countries.
Quebecois lumberjacks playing the fiddle, with sticks for percussion, in a
lumber camp in 1943.French settlers brought music with them when inhabiting what
is now Quebec and other areas throughout Canada. Since the arrival of French
music in Canada, there has been much intermixing with the Celtic music of
Anglo-Canada. French-Canadian folk music is generally performed to accompany
dances like the jig, jeux dansé, ronde, cotillion, and quadrille. The fiddle is
a very common instrument, played by virtuosos like Jean Carignan, Jos Bouchard,
and Joseph Allard. Other instruments include the German diatonic accordion,
played by the likes of Philippe Bruneau and Alfred Montmarquette, spoons, bones,
and Jew's harps.
Music of Quebec
French immigrants to Quebec established their musical forms in the future
province, but there was no scholarly study until Ernest Gagnon's 1865 collection
of 100 folk songs. In 1967, Radio-Canada released The Centennial Collection of
Canadian Folk Songs (much of which was focused on French-Canadian music), which
helped launch a revival of Quebec folk. Singers like Yves Albert, Edith Butler,
and, especially, Félix Leclerc and Gilles Vigneault, helped lead the way. The
1970s saw purists like La Rêve du Diable and La Bottine Souriante continued the
trend. As Quebec folk continued to gain in popularity, artists like Harmonium,
Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Jim Corcoran, Bertrand Gosselin, and Paul Piché found
a mainstream audience.
Since 1979, Quebec music artists have been recognized with the Felix Award.
Music of Maritime Canada
The Music of Canada's Maritimes has included many artists from both the
traditional and pop genres.
The traditional genre is heavily influenced by the music brought to the region
by the European settlers, the most well known of which are the Scots & Irish
celtic and Acadian traditions. Folk songs are those passed on orally, usually
composed by unknown persons. In the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova
Scotia, Prince Edward Island), sea shanties are widespread among the whaling and
fishing workers. The lumber camps of New Brunswick have also produced their own
body of folk songs. Irish and Scottish settlers in the eastern provinces of
Canada brought traditions of fiddling and other forms of music. Having declined
in popularity during the 20th century, a revival of Maritime traditional
inspired music began in the late 1970s, lead by artists such as John Allan
Cameron and Stan Rogers and later, the The Rankins, Mary Jane Lamond, Natalie
MacMaster, Barra MacNeils, and Barachois.
Successful pop acts from all genres have had degrees of national and
international success since the beginning of recorded music period. Performers
as diverse as Hank Snow, Anne Murray, Matt Minglewood and April Wine have all
experienced tremendous success as popular music acts with considerable national
and international tours and record sales. Since the 1990s, bands such as Sloan,
Joel Plaskett, Matt Mays and Buck 65 have made a considerable impact.
Music of Newfoundland and Labrador
Anglo-Canadian folk ballads are particularly well-preserved in Newfoundland. The
widespread "Barbara Allen (song)" is found in dozens of variations, as are songs
like "The Farmer's Curst Wife", "Lord Randall", and "The Sweet Trinity". With
the advent of printing, broadside ballads were found throughout Canada, many of
them Anglo songs telling sad songs about unfulfilled love. In addition to the
influence of English West Country folk music and sea shanties, Newfoundland
music heavily incorporates themes from Irish music, with elements of the
provinces French and Portuguese history also represented.
As with the Maritime provinces, contemporary artists were the catalyst for a
revival of interest in traditional music. Great Big Sea, Figgy Duff and Irish
Descendants carried the traditional sounds of Newfoundland across Canada and
around the world. The most popular being Great Big Sea.
Music of Canada's Prairie Provinces
Among the lumber camps of Ontario and British Columbia, and among the
homesteaders and farmers of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, Anglo settlers
adopted numerous American songs. "Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie", for example,
and the song known as "Prairie Land", "Saskatchewan" or "Alberta Land", which is
adapted from an American song called "Beulah Land".
Music of Other Communities
Native American music
The native peoples of Canada are of a number of diverse ethnic groups, each of
which have their own musical traditions. There are some general similarities,
however. Music is usually social (public) or ceremonial (private). Public,
social music may be dance music accompanied by rattles and drums. Prive,
ceremonial music includes vocal songs with accompaniment on percussion, used to
mark occasions like Midewivin ceremonies and Sun Dances.
Folk songs may be written by an individual, or they may be passed on from
generation to generation, said to have been received through a vision or dream.
These songs generally have one melody, which may be performed by an individual
or a group.
Instruments include drums, rattles and flutes, constructed from natural objects.
Powwows are a common part of native music today. These are meetings and
intertribal celebrations of music, dance and culture. The musical traditions of
powwows draw on those adapted from the Plains Nations.
Few First Nations bands have gone mainstream in Canada. Arguably, the band that
became the most popular was Kashtin, a duo that released their self-titled debut
in 1989 an album that would eventually go double platinum despite that all the
songs were in the band's native language, Innu.
Approximately 25,000 Inuit live in Northern Canada, primarily spread across
Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavik (northern Quebec). Prior to
European contact, Inuit music was based around drums but has since grown to
include fiddles and accordions. Music was dance-oriented and requested luck in
hunting, gambling, or weather, and only rarely, if ever, expressing traditional
purposes like love or specialized forms like work songs and lullabies. In the
20th century, Inuit music was influenced by Scottish and Irish sailors, as well
as, most influentially, American country music. The Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation has long been recording Inuit music, beginning with a station in
Iqaluit in 1961. Accordion players like Charlie Panigoniak and Simeonie
Keenainak quickly found an audience, with the latter notably incorporating
musical influences like polkas and jigs from Quebec and Newfoundland.
Throat singing has become well-known as a curiosity. In katajjaq, female singers
produce melodies from deep in their throats. A pair of singers stare at each
other in a sort of contest. Common in Northern Quebec and Baffin Island,
katajjaq singers perform in sync with each other, so that is producing a strong
accent while the other is producing a weak one. The contest ends when one singer
begins laughing, runs out of breath or the pair's voices become simultaneous. To
some extent, young Inuit have revitalized the genre, and musicians like Tudjaat
have even incorporated pop structures.
Other immigrant communities
Music of immigrant communities in Canada
Montreal's large immigrant communities include artists like Zekuhl (a band
consisting of a Mexican, Chilean and a Quebecer raised in Cameroon), Karen
Young, Eval Manigat (Haiti), and Lorraine Klaasen (South Africa), while Toronto
has a large Balkan and Turkish community that has produced, most famously, the
Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and Staro Selo, alongside Punjabi by Nature, who
incorporate bhangra, rock, dub, and English Punjabi pop, and the Afro-Nubians,
who included musicians from across North America, Europe and Africa. Outside of
these major cities, important artists include Uzume-Taiko and Silk Road Music
from Vancouver and Finjan from Winnipeg.
Caribbean music in Canada
Around the year 2000, Canada has begun to developed itself as a new pole in
Caribbean music industry. This is especially true of the genres Soca and
Calypso. The recent changes in Canada's immigration laws have seen several
prominent music artistes from the Commonwealth Caribbean like David Rudder and
Anslem Douglas resettle with their family to Canada and developed a burgeoning
Caribbean music industry based in Canada.
This trend has also been reinforced by a decrease of the industry in the New
York City area, mainly spurred by factors like the rebranding of the 30+ year
old Caribbean radio station WLIB 1090-AM by Inner City Broadcasting Corporation
in 2004. The ICB rebranding was a tremendous setback to the Caribbean community
and in an essence splintered the Caribbean music industry again across the New
York City metropolitan area. In Canada, station's like Flow FM and CHIN, both
located in Toronto, Ontario have served to bind the Caribbean music industry
with their regularly rotated scheduling for Soca and Calypso music. During this
time several of the leading Caribbean music DJs industry (which just happen to
be based in Ontario) take to the air and launch several new songs or mixes. Some
song mixes have been entered for various Caribbean Carnivals back in the
Caribbean region and have created awareness in the Caribbean of new Soca and
Calypso talent based in Canada.
Patriotic Canadian Songs
Following is a list of popular patriotic songs in Canada.
The Maple Leaf Forever
Something to Sing About
Canada (The Centennial Song)
Ode to Newfoundland
A Place to Stand, A Place to Grow
The Hockey Song
Canada has many different music awards, both for different genres of music and
for geographic regions. Some of these include:
Juno Awards - Canada's main annual music industry awards
CASBY Awards - independent and alternative music
U-Knows - indie rock and alternative music, became the CASBYs in 1986
Canadian Country Music Awards
East Coast Music Awards
Felix Awards - annual prize for members of the Quebec music industry
Western Canadian Music Awards - formerly the Prairie Music Awards
MuchMusic Video Awards
Polaris Music Prize, Canadian equivalent to the Mercury Music Prize
Canadian Urban Music Awards
Local community festivals are the grassroots of the three-tiered classical music
festival movement in Canada. They are located right across the country, in small
towns as well as urban centres. Larger festivals may run for several weeks,
while smaller ones may take only a day or two. Every local festival engages
highly qualified adjudicators who critique each performance, offer help and
guidance, and select winners for honours and scholarships. Adjudicators also
select students to advance to Provincial level festivals.
The top competitors from local festivals gather annually in each province,
attending their respective Provincial Finals competitions and festivals. At
these provincial festivals adjudicators help students of varying levels and
backgrounds, and they recommend the very best to attend the National Music
The National Festival
One of the main responsibilities of the Federation is the organization of the
annual National Music Festival, which is held in a different location in Canada
every year. This festival of classical music brings together the best students
from every province, to perform in the top venues in the country, to interact
and hear and learn from each other, to have workshop sessions with Canada's best
adjudicators, and to compete for the top prizes in Canada. It is a truly unique
Festival that enriches the lives of both performers and audiences alike!
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