FrancoFolies de Montréal: A large Francophone music festival
Since 1989, the FrancoFolies de Montréal, modelled on the Francofolies de La Rochelle created four years earlier in France, has continued to grow. It is now the largest event devoted exclusively to French-language music anywhere in the world. For 10 days in the middle of June, 1,000 artists put on some 250 shows, most of which are free outdoor shows within walking distance of downtown Montreal. All styles of music are represented: French and Quebecois song, world music, and French-language rock, country, pop, reggae and hip-hop. This diverse programming attracts almost a million festival-goers. FrancoFolies de Montréal is a major Francophone music showcase in the deep-rooted festival tradition of Quebec, and especially Montreal, that blends culture, a zest for life and shared experience.
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A unique showcase for Francophone vocal artists
The FrancoFolies de Montréal is one of the 10 largest cultural events in Canada in terms of attendance and budget. Faced with a more powerful Anglophone music industry, which limits Francophone artists’ access to the North American market, Francophone music in all its forms benefits greatly from this huge event. For the public, the FrancoFolies de Montréal is an opportunity to enjoy an eclectic array of largely free concerts by their favourite artists, explore less well-known repertoires and discover new talent. The artists benefit from exceptional visibility and good media coverage during this flagship event for Francophone music in Canada.
With its varied program, the FrancoFolies de Montréal is also a showcase for Francophone ethnocultural diversity. For example, in the early 2000s, Montrealers enjoyed the exotic Francophone accents of La grande fête antillaiseand La fête africaine. Other shows, like La fête à Gilles Vigneault, La fête à Daniel Lavoie and La fête à Édith Butler, as well as the Serge Gainsbourg, Serge Fiori and Claude Léveillée tribute shows, draw from a more well-known repertoire. Also, the many shows on the festival’s seven stages give up-and-coming artists an opportunity to hone their skills and be discovered. In short, in addition to its festive atmosphere, the 10-day FrancoFolies event substantially contributes to the vitality of Francophone music.
Festivals, with their festive atmosphere and multiple shows, events and gatherings around a unifying theme, are extremely popular throughout Quebec. Several years ago, two not-for-profit organizations were created to help Quebec municipalities organize festive events reflecting their culture and offer quality products. The passion for festivals is also evident in other Francophone communities in Canada, and appears to be a distinctive feature of French Canadian culture. But Montreal is the city of festivals par excellence. It ranks second only to Edinburgh, Scotland, as the world capital of festivals. Montreal also has an organization, the Collectif de festival montréalais, which coordinates the dozen or so major festivals that take place in the city and works to enhance their cultural and tourism benefits. It lends its expertise to the FrancoFolies de Montréal, which is constantly consolidating its relevance, outreach and success.
History of the FrancoFolies
In 1985, Jean-Louis Foulquier, a media personality and fervent proponent of Francophone music in France, launched the first edition of the Francofolies de La Rochelle. Seeing that the event kept getting more successful, two experienced event organizers in Quebec, Alain Simard, founder of the Montreal Jazz Festival, and Guy Latraverse, an influential producer and agent, imported the concept to Montreal. In 1989, its first year, the FrancoFolies de Montréal fulfilled its mission, which was to promote Francophone music, foster its distribution and showcase artists from all French-speaking countries.
The festival’s first edition included some 15 performances, revealing a unique characteristic: a wide variety of styles and unusual pairings of artists on stage. The closing show of the first edition, rebroadcast on French and Quebec television, reached an audience of more than 20 million. In 1994, the free outdoor component was added, and the festival was moved to the beginning of summer. Large-scale events with popular singers accompanied by a symphonic orchestra were added at the end of the 1990s. At the beginning of the 2000s, the festival incorporated a permanent world music component and was extended to 10 days. In the 2010s, there was a greater diversity of styles, making the FrancoFolies de Montréal a must for all fans of Francophone music.