If, one day, you happen to be driving through the village of Neuville, the “Corn Capital” located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River just west of Québec City, make sure you drop by Médé Langlois’ farm and visit his store, L’Économusée de la conserverie. As the name suggests, this is a cannery where you can buy traditional preserves made according to “150-year old recipes.” Vegetables have been growing on his land for the past 350 years, and the Langlois farm is one of the oldest still operating in Canada. Warning: Médé, whose family members have been proud vegetable and milk producers for eleven generations, is also a punk musician.

“Y’know, the ancestors who used to live around here in the old days played folk music,” says the lead singer and guitarist of the “punklore” group Carotté, who crushed it on the stage of L’Astral on June 9, 2017, as part of a FrancoFolies de Montréal double-bill, shared with the Orloge Simard “biological” band.  “I just grew up surrounded by folk music. There has always been folk music here. The whole village used to gather here in the family home kitchen, and they all played folk music, at least once a week. But later on, in high school with my buddies, we used to listen to a lot of punk music.”

Médé had gotten up at 4:30 in the morning, as he does every day to milk the cows, work in the fields, and look after his store. But at the other end of the phone line, at noon, he still sounds full of vim and vigour, and willing to share lots of stories about music, his cows (“Do they like punk music? Well, they don’t have much choice, we practice in the barn!”) or the farming life. Here’s the story of the birth of Carotté and the release of their first album, Punklore et Trashdition (a musical “preserve,” as it were) back in 2015.

“After opening the Économusée store, I decided to get a spot in the new farmer’s market that had opened in Deschambault, not far from here,” says Langlois. “During the day, we sold vegetables while musicians entertained the customers – just a small traditional music group of three musicians. And then, at the end of the day, we would join the musicians for a glass of beer or rum, and at some point them, I asked them, ‘Why don’t we all form a band together?’ I’ve got two friends who play punk music. So the three of you and the three of us, half punk and half folk, we can blend it together. It’s not been done too often here – we remember Groovy Aardvark, who recorded ‘Boisson d’avril’ with Yves Lambert, but it’s also been done by Irish musicians (The Pogues) and bands from Brittany in the North of France (Soldat Louis, Matmatah, Les Ramoneurs de menhirs).”

That’s how Carotté and its original “punklore” repertoire were born. “We write all our lyrics together, otherwise, Étienne, our violinist, does it – he’s pretty good at it,” says Langlois. They also play traditional songs like Oscar Thiffault’s hugely famous “Tape la bizoune.” “Writing new material is fine, but what’s more important is to keep alive folk tunes and melodies such as this song that Madame Louise used to sing and that we’ve been performing,” says Langlois.

Old tunes, but played with today’s energy, and a sense of celebration. “It makes a great mix. We have to preserve those,“ he says, “because folklore is like our musical soil. It’s like when I’m sowing my cucumber seeds in Neuville – I think there may only be three or four [of us farmers] in the world owning these small seeds and sowing these particular cucumbers, so it’s important for me to keep this thing going.

“Because, you know, for me, music and agriculture go hand in hand,” the singing farmer insists. Really? “When I enter the field to plant [my vegetables], It’s like I am on my way to make new songs. And when we open the store each morning, it’s like we’re doing a soundcheck. And the minute the people, the customers come in, the show is on!”

Langlois also draws anthropological links between traditional and punk music, “two musical styles that were on the fringe of society and were forms of protest,” he says. “La Bolduc [Mary Travers], for instance, exposed things in her songs, and we’re doing it too.

“Because we farmers, we have lots of things to expose,” he adds, “but we’re putting in 100-hour weeks, seven days a week. I don’t have time to go to Parliament Hill to be part of a demonstration and denounce all that’s not working in agriculture – because Québec agriculture is really sick right now.” The farmer adds that he still finds the time to make music because it’s necessary. Vital. “If I don’t make music, I can’t be a farmer. And if there is no farming, there is no music.”

The band’s début album already contained a blend of moods, from the festive spirit of Oscar Thiffault’s irresistible song, to protest songs such as “Souffrance”: “I live in a country that’s pretty rotten… It reflects our concerns, stories like that of the small cheese-maker who’s getting trampled on.”

Langlois is particularly concerned about the path of the Energy East Pipeline, “which will pass through my land,” he says – land originally plowed by his family’s first North American ancestor, François Langlois, who sailed across the Atlantic to New France in 1667, settled in Neuville, and created a business that will be the topic of a major report this fall as part of Radio-Canada’s La Semaine verte television series. The idea of allowing oil to flow across this ancestral land is enough to stir up anybody’s inner punk. “There is so much to protest again in agriculture,” says Langlois, “and since most farmers don’t have access to a mic and a stage, we’re going to do it on their behalf.”

Carotté will perform in local festivals and agricultural fairs throughout the summer, with its own mixture of joyful and angry music. New songs will be added to the band’s repertoire in preparation for a new album to be released in 2018. The Ferme Langlois et Fils (Chez Médé) cannery is open from Wednesday to Sunday in June, and every day from July to October.

Ariane Moffatt

Ariane Moffatt

When Les FrancoFolies de Montréal top dog Laurent Saulnier contacted Ariane Moffatt last winter to create Louve, neither of them had an inkling of the symbolism this 100% female band’s concert – now the finale of the 2017 edition of the music festival – was going to take on.

Reacting to an editorial written by Laurence Nerbonne, “Me and my bros only,” published on the Urbania website, in the wake of a Radio-Canada Revelations show where she was the only woman, the FrancoFolies’ vice-president and music curator decided to put together a show with no men involved, but didn’t want to present it as a “girls’ show.”

“I jumped right in,” says Moffatt. “I ended up being given carte blanche. I was tasked with putting together an all-girl house band. It was a trip, to me it was a statement. It wasn’t long before the girls we talked to said yes.”

Marie-Pierre Arthur, Salomé Leclerc, Amylie, Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Ariane Moffatt thus found themselves at the core of Louve (in English, She-wolf), a name that says a lot about the pack mentality that underpins the band. “We didn’t want to call it Les Louves [the plural of a she-wolf] because we felt it put too much emphasis on the girl-band concept,” says Amylie, who came up with the name.

Once the core was in place, the rumour started spreading. Many guests cottoned on to Louve: Safia Nolin, Klô Pelgag, Frannie Holder, Mara Tremblay, Jenny Salgado, Laurence Nerbonne, Les Hay Babies, as well as other surprises that won’t be revealed until the actual June 18, 2017, concert, to be held at 7:00 pm at the Place des festivals in Montréal.

“If a slightly douchey guy feels bad after making a sexist innuendo like, ‘You play well for a girl,’ then the F.E.M. will have accomplished part of its goal.” — Marie-Pierre Arthur.

2017: A Year of Awakening

The fact of the matter is that the project even took on a whole different meaning, on June 1, 2017, when the Femmes en Musique (F.E.M.; in English, Women in Music) collective published an open letter on Facebook. The 135 signatories, all women in the music business, put forth the same conclusion that Laurence Nerbonne had reached the previous fall: women are under-represented in the music landscape.

Amylie, Salomé Leclerc

Amylie, Salomé Leclerc

“All of us singers, musicians, singer-songwriters, technicians and other female players of the industry, agree that there really is sexism in the music biz and that we have all had to deal with it at one point or another, whether it simply is through a bias against us, or technical or gear knowledge, by questioning our talent, our experience or our relevance,” says the letter.

It had to happen, at some point. Label president, manager, producer, stagehand and studio tech, session musician and even music journalist are all trades that are overwhelmingly male-dominated, and hard for any woman to break into.

“I don’t think people in the industry are ill-intentioned,” says Salomé Leclerc. “I know a lot of guys who love to work with women onstage and in the studio. I don’t think festival programmers act in bad faith, yet there are a few reflexes they should develop, in 2017, before they send their poster to the printer’s. I do believe the issues raised by F.E.M. contribute to changing the mentality.”

Make no mistake about it: if Salomé Leclerc mentions festival programmers, it’s because their work can easily be quantified. According to the Journal de Montréal, 27% of headliners at the Montréal Jazz Fest are women. This number drops to 22% for the Festival d’été de Québec, 20% for the Festival de la poutine de Drummondville and a mere 8% for Jonquière en Musique. Other festivals such as Laval’s Diapason, Grandes Fêtes Telus in Rimouski and Festirame in Alma were also singled out on F.E.M.’s Facebook page.

“Our collective gelled when the programs for the 2017 summer festivals came out,” says Ariane Moffatt. “In the beginning, there were about 20 of us messaging privately over Facebook. We were frustrated by the lack of women. And at a certain point, we decided it was enough and that we needed to go public.”

“Programmers no longer have any excuse,” says Laurence Lafond-Beaulne. “According to a census of singer-songwriters done by the Société professionnelle des auteurs et des compositeurs du Québec, there are virtually as many woman as men in their ranks. A brand new cohort of women has arrived in the business in the last ten years. The talent is there, and sales numbers are there to prove it. So why aren’t they making it to the top of the bill? We want to help the system to evolve.”

A Question of Education

This new wave of female artists is also no stranger to the feminist wave that’s shaking things up in the worlds of theatre – the Femmes pour l’équité en théâtre collective was created last January – and cinema. Over the past few months, the SODEC, National Film Board, and Téléfilm Canada all adopted measures to foster gender equality among movie-makers.

“I think there’s a fad regarding the representation of women,” says Ariane Moffatt. “I’ll get flak from my peers for saying this, but if you’d asked me if I was a feminist at the onset of my career, I would not have dared to answer your question. Except now, there’s a whole wave of female singers who are 25, 30, or 35 years old that want to raise people’s awareness about different social issues. It’s happening in the cultural industries, but also elsewhere in society.”

Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, Marie-Pierre Arthur

Laurence Lafond-Beaulne, Marie-Pierre Arthur

“If a slightly douchey guy feels bad after making a sexist innuendo like, ‘You play well for a girl,’ then the F.E.M. will have accomplished part of its goal,” says Marie-Pierre Arthur. “The other day, I asked my son if he believed men were better musicians than women. He looked at me with a huge question mark in his eyes. To him the very question made no sense because he’s just as used to seeing his dad (keyboardist François Lafontaine) as his mom onstage. What matters is that we keep on paving the way for the next generation of girls who want to get into music. You want to play drums, or bass, or be a record producer? It’s possible!”

According to Amylie, a lack of strong female role models did hinder her career when she started 10 years ago. “I had to jump through a lot of hoops before I could take my place among the guys I worked with,” she says. “It took me quite a while before I could muster the confidence to produce my own album (Les Éclats, released last year). Just making my own choices, and telling a drummer what the rhythm I wanted, required me to wear pants that I didn’t even think I owned. I don’t know where this meek and timid syndrome comes from, but it’s a problem that plagues women, whether or not they’re in the music biz. And when we want to assert our place, we’re told to shut up. If we raise our voice, people call us hysterical. Being afraid of being judged can make you want to dig your own hole. The more women make a place for themselves in music, the more mentality will evolve.”

Awakening awareness, changing habits, paving the way for future generations… The F.E.M. clearly has an educational role, first and foremost. So what are its next steps? “What we need is an open dialogue,” Ariane Moffatt says right away, alluding to the collective’s first major meeting on June 21, 2017, at Montréal’s Lion d’Or. “We’ll see what comes out of it, but there needs to be concrete action.”

Until then, the Louve concert, three days earlier, will surely come across as a manifesto. “Based on our rehearsals, it seems we feel like rocking hard,” says Marie-Pierre Arthur. “We all seem motivated by the raw rock, almost grunge-punk vibe. I don’t think it’ll be a ‘little girls should be seen and not heard’ kinda deal.”

Any chance to catch Louve onstage outside of the FrancoFolies? “Nothing planned for now,” says Moffatt. “But let’s just say it would be a shame to stop there.”

Based on the determination of the five main protagonists, Louve isn’t about to stop howling.


Vancouver-area bhangra is on the brink of something big.

The first indicator that the West Coast/British Columbia bhangra and desi music scene is on the verge of wider recognition came with 2016’s “Suit,” a massive hit throughout India that was recorded and released by Indian singing sensation Guru Randhawa and Canada’s own Aneil Kainth, a.k.a. DJ Intense.

“Suit,” as of this writing, has surpassed 65 million YouTube views, says he couldn’t ask for a greater professional impact in his music. “It has definitely taken my career to a height that I didn’t think was ever possible in my life,” laughs Intense, who composed and produced the bilingual track, which boasts a danceable, polyrhythmic beat, and a foundation of electronic sounds. “Basically, being here, from Canada, and experiencing that in India, it’s broadened my horizons and broadened my reach… So far, the opportunities and the people that I’ve been able to meet have been unreal.”

Some of those include India favourite Jasmin Sandlas – whose “Haaniyan” kicked off Intense’s 2016 album 124, and has racked up more than two million YouTube views – as well as Canadians G.S. Hundal and Karan Aujla, the latter a teen sensation.

DJ Intense isn’t the only Canadian success story making global inroads: bhangra bands Delhi 2 Dublin and En Karma, rapper Horsepowar, DJ Khanvict, dhol (an Indian double-headed drum) and harmonium specialist and DJ Raju Johal, Dave Bawa, and producer and performer Harj Nagra are just a few of the current and future bright lights of the joyous, upbeat Punjabi music being embraced by India, and its population of 1.3 billion people.  The West Coast scene itself encompasses a territory that ensnares Richmond, Surrey, and Burnaby in its lower mainland grip, and sports an estimated South Asian population of more than 300,000.

There are also bhangra and desi music pioneers in greater Vancouver, who’ve laid the groundwork since the late 1980s, and have made their presence known abroad: Surrey-raised superstar Jaswinder Singh “Jazzy B” Bains, the self-styled “President of bhangra”; Surrey-based religious singer K.S. Makhan; actor and singer Sarbjit Cheema; Richmond, BC, brothers Kamal Heer and Manmohan Waris; and Burnaby’s Harbhajan Mann.

But despite a lengthy history and a highly concentrated talent pool, bhangra musicians go virtually unnoticed in their Canadian homeland. It’s a perception Delhi 2 Dublin founder and leader Tarun Nayar, who doubles as the artistic director of the City of Bhangra Festival held annually in June, hopes to change. To that end, he’s produced a Telus-financed documentary Bhangra City, which documents the music so overlooked in the province, premiering June 12 at the Van City Theatre, during the 2017 festival. SOCAN A&R Administrator Melissa Cameron will attend a desi music incubator during the festival, on June 11 at the Surrey Arts Centre.

“It’s about what’s going on with this hidden sub-culture of Punjabi music in Vancouver, that has produced some of the biggest names in Punjabi pop: people who are getting tens, hundreds of millions of plays on YouTube, and yet are totally unrecognized in Vancouver,” says Nayar. “All of them have a home base in the lower mainland, but they’re absent from what we think of as the music industry. The bhangra scene here has been relatively strong since the early ‘80s, so there’s a huge resource of people here that haven’t really been tapped into.”

Nayar says it’s discrimination, due to outdated perceptions, that has kept key Vancouver clubs from booking bhangra acts. “As a brown person in Vancouver, [I say that] probably because of this somewhat inaccurate perception of South Asian people being tied to gangs – there was some gang stuff that happened here in the ‘90s and early 2000s – it’s very, very difficult for brown people to get gigs in clubs in Vancouver,” Nayar explains. “So this scene can’t exist in public spaces, with very few exceptions, even though many of these DJs from Surrey have tens of thousands of followers on Instagram, and every show they play is jammed. But they’ll never be able to get a Friday or Saturday night [gig] in the city.”

However, that doesn’t mean that the local bhangra movement lacks for outlets. Another unexpected circuit has picked up the slack. “The whole thing has shifted to wedding culture,” says Nayar. “The biggest DJs and the biggest names in the scene are playing weddings, because that’s where they can play. It’s also where a lot of money can be made. Punjabi and Indian weddings are big affairs: there are 1,000 to 2,000 people at these weddings, and there’s a scene there. But because it can’t blend over into the mainstream, these weddings turn into raves, basically, with huge robots, and confetti cannons, and lasers, and smoke.”

DJ Asad Khan, known to his followers as Khanvict, says Indian weddings are much different in focus than Western weddings. “If you’re at a Western wedding, the DJ is not really the spectacle of the wedding,” he explains. “The focus is on the couple, the big decor and the food. Whereas with Indian weddings, dinner is an afterthought. The DJ is front and centre, and is the main man… and by the way, dinner is available if you want to have a bite… A wedding is almost like a rave.”


Khanvict (Photo: The Visual Cortex)

Khanvict says that many DJs who are regulars on the wedding circuit get pigeonholed for their involvement. But ask him which pay scale is the more lucrative one, club or wedding, and you might be surprised. “It’s been difficult to get club gigs because once you get weddings, people look at you in a different way,” says Khanvict, who owns Decibel, a service company that employees 16 DJs. “The hard truth is that at a wedding, I’ll make almost 10 times what a guy makes at a club. In the same night, the guy who gets $200 to play in a club, I can charge $2,000 to play at a wedding. People playing this music are more appreciated, so you’re going to be drawn to a market that appreciates you and pays you well.”

Since many of the wedding guests fly in from around the globe to attend the nuptials, word-of-mouth is an additional benefit. “When you have that kind of crowd, you’re going to get people that are traveling, and if they hear you and they like your work, they’re going to go back and talk about it,” says Khanvict, who has appeared in countries ranging from Mexico to Indonesia to Australia.

But not everyone has been shut out of the club scene.  Jasleen Powar, a.k.a. Horsepowar, is one of the exceptions when it comes to being hired in local clubs. Hailing from Richmond, she has a strong feminist bent, and occasionally humourous approach, in her outspoken hip-hop. Its uniqueness allows Powar to diversify when it comes to landing gigs.


Horsepowar (Photo: HYFN)

“Because I’m a rapper, it’s a little bit easier to find those venues,” says Horsepowar, who played a couple of SXSW shows in 2016, and whose biggest YouTube hit, “Queen,” has amassed more than 90,000 views. “I’m lucky. Because I’m not just part of the South Asian scene, it’s like bridging the gap – which is the true hybridity of the child of the diaspora, that East Meets West – and I get to play mainstream shows.

“I’m still figuring out the Horsepowar sound and the Horsepowar look, and I try to make it as true as I can to who I am as a person. But I’m always torn between styles and tastes, because I grew up listening to Black Sabbath, and Ben Harper, and had my emo phase. Then I went into the hip-hop world, and I’ve always had the Bollywood thing, so it was never like I fit this image. For the desi/South Asian scene, I feel like I resonate with them just for who I am. So I felt I fit into so many different worlds when it came down to getting shows.”

However, Horsepowar acknowledges that the Vancouver music scene can appear to be divisive. “In general, I think Vancouver needs to work on inclusion,” says Powar. “When I go to Oakland, or Toronto, or L.A., I feel like there’s this inclusion, where they just want good people around, and if you’re cool, you’re cool. But here I feel like you’ve got to prove it.” Or, as Nayar recently told The Vancouver Courier, “I don’t expect a capitalist system to be altruistic. But it does piss me off that there is money to be made, there are great stories and great music, but a huge demographic of our city isn’t being served by conventional models.”

DJ Intense

DJ Intense (Photo: Sergio Pawar/Dreamfinity)

DJ Intense says the potential of the Vancouver bhangra and desi scenes have already been proven elsewhere, as markets such as India continue to search for fresh sounds. “I think because I’m from abroad, it made a big difference,” he explains. “In the whole Indian music market, they’re looking for something fresh and something new. They’re always trying to go as Western as possible. And who better than somebody from the West Coast? I would say Canada is literally on the brink of being the next big Indian superpower when it comes to music.”

Locally, there’s a glimmer of hope that acceptance is beginning to happen. In addition to playing in Delhi 2 Dublin, running the VIBC, and releasing the new Bhangra City film, Nayar is in a side project called Desi Subculture that’s working with Vancouver-based promoter Blueprint to stage nights of showcases at the city club Celebrities. “They recognize the need to bring South Asian culture into the mainstream of Vancouver, so we’ve been working with them,” says Nayar. “The demand is there. It sells tickets. And we want to help the industry realize there’s an economic opportunity here… We’d be stupid not to be involved.”