The French-rooted communities in Canada and Louisiana have become treasure houses of culture, and that culture summons up a way of life where people worked hard, loved hard, and danced just as hard.
A good dance band has to keep the dancers moving. And if the beat isn’t right, the dancers will know it — and show it. So not only do you have to be fleet-fingered, your energy has to match that of the dancers, it has to push them, lift them, provide that wonderful ride and release that is a good dance. Watching and listening to the Québécois band De Temps Antan at their WOMEX showcase, that point was powerfully brought home. The room was only just large enough for the crowd that came to hear them, and there was certainly no room for dancing. Still, one could see the many dance gigs that must have shaped this trio. You’ll see a superb interaction and great joy in their presentation, and they feed off the energy in a room and get stronger with each song. Having reviewed the footage I shot many times, I can tell you that I almost felt exhausted myself by the end of the set– yet their tempos remained rock solid and their arrangements tight.
That said, I’ve chosen to start off my video with one of their slower songs, one they found in an archive. These guys do their homework researching older material and giving it fresh new arrangements. “Jeune et Jolie” (young and pretty) has a sturdy melody, and the band works it for all its worth. It gives you a chance to see that these guys –who all, by the way, tenured with “La Bottine Souriante” that institution of Québécois music — aren’t just wonderful instrumentalists, they are also excellent singers. This is followed by a buoyant dance medley.
Watching a performance like this makes me wonder what we may have lost in our journey towards more and more impersonal modes of music delivery. I ask myself “what is the difference in the experience of dancing to a live band, and dancing to a deejay?” It’s a hard one to answer, but there are differences, and they are worth thinking about and evaluating.
De Temps Antan is: Éric Beaudry (guitar, bouzouki, vocals, feet), André Brunet (fiddle, vocals, feet) and Pierre-Luc Dupuis (accordion, harmonica, vocals, feet).
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