Or some of the reasons anyway.
I realised today that it has been a while since I updated this blog. This is because I have been overloaded with work (shudder), which included pulling another all-nighter on Tuesday/Wednesday. So apologies for that, hypothetical reader. Sympathy is always welcome.
I had an interesting day on Monday. A lovely chap in Royal Holloway, Henry Stobart, had offered to lend me some Charangos for my project (which when it is done I will explain here). So I had a very complicated time of it trying to get to him and take the instruments to safety whilst getting to Farringdon by 7pm, all by public transport. However, I managed it. The reason why I had to get to get to Farringdon was because Genticorum were playing.
Genticorum are, according to me, the greatest Quebecois band around at the moment, and therefore by extension, also according to me, they are the greatest band in the world. I saw them live at Sidmouth on the main stage when sat in the front row this summer and they blew me away. I was hoping for a similar experience on Monday. They didn’t disappoint.
I think that one of the reasons why I like Quebecois music so much is that it feels so alive, in all senses of the word. In most countries, you get the sceptre of tradition hanging over your shoulder and it dominates people’s playing. The revival movement, whilst saving many tunes and songs from being lost and arguably saving traditional music in general in this country, does tend to make people backwards looking and obsessed with what has gone before to the detriment of what could come now.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to be tutored by John Dipper, who I think is the finest living interpreter of English Fiddle Music (and his fiddle playing is exquisite). On his website is a quote: “Tradition must be respected, convention can be broken; but only when you know which is which”. I think that this is right. People sometimes regard playing within the tradition as playing exactly as they used to 100 years ago. This is patently ridiculous. The other extreme though, of disregarding everything that has gone before you, is just as ridiculous. I see a lot of people who describe themselves as folk musicians who appear to have no connection with the tradition that they claim to espouse.
In Quebec though, although traditional music lost popularity, it never really died, and so it is almost a living tradition. And this comes through in the playing and the composing of Genticorum and others. They aren’t afraid to do interesting things with the music, yet they are still recognisably Quebecois to the core. For more information on the history of Quebecois music, see the writings of Lisa Orsnstein, for instance here.
Mostly though, the appeal is in the tunes. Quebecois tunes are full of life and energy, they force you to move to them. The fiddle tunes especially are wonderfully irregular, they may be crooked, meaning that they change time signature rapidly or they might have irregular numbers of bars. The subject of crooked tunes has pages in it, I’ll leave that for a later post, but I will say that whilst a decent tune metaphorically moves you up and down, a decent crooked tune metaphorically moves you round a circle. It’s like you’ve lived in a 2D universe all your life and have suddenly found out about the third dimension.
The appeal of Genticorum, is, of course, also in the arrangements and musicianship. Their musicality is supremely evident and effortless. They achieve huge amounts of contrast between sets, keep the audience’s attention completely and are very funny in the patter. They are a fantastic example of a group where the members know each other so well that they can relax fully in the music and play around, improvising. When musicians relax, the music gets better and better and Genticorum are one of the most musical groups out there.
At the end of the gig I could have gone up and hugged them in sheer gratitude for existing. As it was I went up to Pascal and slightly breathlessly said that it was a great gig and thanked him and got out of there. For the next few hours I was completely wired up and constantly hopping from one foot to another and explaining to anyone that would listen that it was very important that I move to Canada. And if my brain couldn’t throw up a dozen reasons why not, now that the drug of an amazing gig has worn off, I would. I love this music. Watch the video below and tell me that you don’t too.
Genticorum’s latest CD, “Nagez Rameurs” is available to buy from multiple retailers and I urge you all to buy it as soon as you possibly can.