Culture | Oh Canadian Music

Laura Linden investigates our home and native land’s global musical impact

A widespread and steadily increasing international awareness permeates today’s global music scene. The accessibility and constant circulation of emerging musical talent, facilitated by the mind-boggling powers of media and the interweb, has enabled artists to showcase their sounds much more freely. What’s more, it has awarded music lovers the chance to sample an obscene amount of fresh international music from the comfort of their respective time zones. Considering the constantly fluctuating parameters of global network of musical exchange, it’s hard not to ask the following, sometimes ambiguous, question: Where does Canada stand on the current international music docket?

It goes without saying that Canada boasts a vast array of homegrown musical talent. Artists hailing from all over the country and experimenting with a wide range of musical genres, infuse it with the potential for musical greatness. In recent years, an international audience has indeed been exposed to the musical prowess of several Canadian artists – and they like what they hear.

Native Montreal band The Arcade Fire are one example currently on everyone’s mind. They’ve become an international music sensation, earning the coveted “Album of the Year” award at the 2011 Grammy’s, as well as the “Best International Album” at this year’s Brit Awards for their most recent album, The Suburbs. The album’s hauntingly dynamic sound dominated this year’s Canadian, American, and British music charts and their international exposure was further bolstered by the release of their short film Scenes from the Suburbs, directed by Spike Jonze, at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival. The Arcade Fire invited Montrealers to share in this success with an enormous free concert in Montreal’s Quartier des Spectacles on September 22, courtesy of the 10th annual POP Montreal music festival. An approximated 80 to 100 thousand dedicated Arcade Fire fans were happy to attend.

Despite some people’s misguided beliefs, Canadian music is not by any means limited to the Arcade Fire. In recent years, several other Canadian artists have spurred similarly impressive national and international followings. Singer-songwriter Dallas Green, a former member of the internationally acclaimed post-hardcore band Alexisonfire who is currently working on his solo indie-folk project City and Colour, has garnered cult-like followings from Canada to Australia.  Green’s ethereal vocals and hard-hitting acoustics, manifested in his newest album Little Hell, have captured the hearts of many, and place him firmly within the ranks of internationally celebrated Canadian indie artists. Similarly, Albertan duo Tegan and Sara, Nova Scotia native Feist, and Ontarian trio Bedouin Soundclash have all forged places for themselves within the vein of Canadian indie-folk music, and their international followings are growing steadily.

The recent explosion of other progressive, and perhaps more experimental, genres of music such as electro, glitch, and dubstep – which have flourished online – has brought an entire fleet of music producers, DJs and artists out of their proverbial Canadian bat caves and into the international music consciousness. Torontonian producer Joel Zimmerman, also known as the internationally celebrated Deadmau5, has become a dance music phenomenon praised for his pioneering manipulation of music-making software. DeadMau5 earned the “Dance Recording of the Year” Juno Award for his 2009 Album For Lack of a Better Name as well as a Grammy nomination for “Best Remixed Recording.” In March of 2010, he earned three International Dance Music Awards including “Best Artist” and “Best American DJ.” Zimmerman’s most recent international achievements include a sold out show at London’s Earls Court, a world-famous, 17,000 capacity venue. The show was monumental for Canadian electro, considering the venue has never hosted an electronic headliner before.

Deadmau5 continues to take the dance music world by storm, shining a light on the thriving realm of self-produced Canadian music.  Such prospering Canadian musical acts include Montreal electro-funk duo Chromeo, who have been working crowds into bouts of frenzied dancing since 2004. The release of their second album Fancy Footwork in 2009 created an international hubbub, prompting a two-year world tour where they performed at legendary festivals such as Coachella and Lollapalooza in America, Glastonbury and Reading in the UK, and Fujirock in Japan.

Similarly, Montreal DJ Alain Macklovitch, better known as A-Trak (Chromeo’s David Macklovtich’s younger brother), has punctured the international DJ scene with his remix work.  A-Trak won his first of five DJ World Championship titles in 1997 at the ripe age of 15, making him the youngest and first Canadian champion of the competition. As Macklovitch continues to tear up his turntables, his collaborations with musical sensations such as Kanye West and CyHi Da Prynce put him on a prestigious international pedestal.

Evidently, Canada has already left an indelible mark on the international music scene, and continues to turn out new and promising talent with every passing year. However, there is an extensive list of Canadian Artists who are yet to be recognized internationally. Within Canada, music festivals such as the World Electronic Music Festival and POP Montreal help endorse our nations musicians.  Additionally, the creation of online blogs such as weirdcanada.com are dedicated to the propagation of Canadian music and contribute to its international exposure. Yet, there is still much to be done. Up-and-coming artists ranging from an interminable list of genres such as R&B crooner the Weeknd, bass heavy dubstep duo Zeds Dead and indie-rock sensations Mother Mother, show Canada’s potential for more presence on the international music stage. Canadians should therefore endeavor to support their local music scenes. What could be more rewarding than watching talented fellow Canadians reap the fruits of their musical labor and gain international recognition for their craft? After all, there is nothing as satisfying as being able to exclaim: “Oh, that band? They’re Canadian, eh!”


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