Home Feature Festival Mémoire et Racines turns 30 this year with an unforgettable line-up

Festival Mémoire et Racines turns 30 this year with an unforgettable line-up

FMR 2018. Photo by Elizabeth Szekeres.

Thirty years! Wow! That’s how long Festival Mémoire et Racines has been running.

It’s the biggest folk festival in Québec, and by all accounts, the friendliest and the best at showcasing the diverse musical traditions that the province has to offer.

The 2024 edition promises to give us a taste of how the festival began all those years ago, but also show us how far we have come.

It’s not just the weekend of July 26-28. The festival actually begins on July 23 in the centre of the town of Joliette with performances on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

They will feature trad bands Artifaille and Baqqhus, La NEF et 4 Charbonniers, Jean-Sébastien Ricard et Sin and Swoon, and Nicholas Boulerice et Frédéric Samson. There will be participation with call-and-response singing, and a good time will be had by all.

But starting on Friday night, the Féstival Mémoire et Racines swings into full gear. The big Scène Gilles Cantin main stage at Parc Bosco will rock, first with the students of Camp Violon Trad and then with Nicolas Boulerice, Olivier Demers and Robert Deveaux. Next, we have Occitan voices from Le Mal Coifée, their first time in North America. Then, The Winston Band will join with Nadine et Sammy for a fusion of Zydeco and Cajun music. The finale will be the thrilling Trad band De Temps Antan, whose members are celebrating the 20th anniversary, performing here with founding fiddler André Brunet joining the members of the current lineup. This is going to be a fantastic Friday night start to the Féstival weekend.

Saturday night will be great too! The Grand Scène begins with it a giant fusion of music from Mi’qmaq traditions with music from Senegal. Mi’Gmafrica should have everyone on their feet dancing in no time. La Belle Équipe is up next, with songs from both Québec and Brittany with a bit of Cajun tradition in the mix. Then, Moskitto Bar will be on, with their very intercultural rhythmic party music, a mix of music from Brittany, Iraq, Greece, Algeria and more. Finally on Saturday night, the ladies of Galant, Tu Perds Ton Temps will present their new CD with five-part harmonies and great songs from the Quétrad repertoire and beyond.

Sunday evening, the Grand Scène starts out with the band ÉTÉ: violin, cello, fretted strings and stepdancing, giving us the best of today’s QuéTrad. The second band will be Les Mononcles, with guests who will give us the best from the first edition of the festival. The final act will be the venerable supergroup of Québec, La Bottine Souriante. La Bottine has been performing for 48 years, showcasing Québec’s version of world music around the globe. Here, they will be performing their newest album and bringing back some of their original members.

We can’t wait!

But the Grand Scène is not all. Throughout the weekend, there are multiple side stage performances on six other stages. Here are some highlights:

Friday and Saturday nights, there will be participatory dancing. Québecois square dances happen with a dance caller and hot-shot young musicians from the Quétrad community. It’s definitely not to be missed.

Late afternoon on Saturday and Sunday, there will be two informal performances near the bar down the hill – a steel pan band from Trinidad and Tobago: Sarah & Family; and a band with New Orleans and Caribbean influences: Fanfare de L’ile. Then, a parade of the students from Camp Violon Trad will carry everyone off to dinner in the food court. Halfway up the hill, there’s another informal stage where there will be a jam session for everyone, led by Sophie Lavoie late on Sunday afternoon.

On the Cornet Acoustique stage at noon on Saturday, we will be knocked out by the sound of the Bombarde, played by Gaël Lefebvre, accompanied by Éric Beaudry. Gaël, from Brittany, is the 2024 Musician in Residence for the Town of Joliette. These events invariably result in fabulous musical cross-pollination and it’s wonderful to hear the performances that occur.

For the rest of the weekend, the side stage programs feature voices, violins, accordions, wind instruments, and fretted strings, all played by masters of those instruments. All of the bands that have evening sets on the main stage also have daytime performances on the side stages. You never have to miss a thing!

There’s a whole series of dance workshops for participants to enjoy on the Danse, Danse stage. Gumboots, several kinds of Québecois and Ottawa Valley stepdancing, and Cajun & Zydeco dancing all are on the schedule.

Accordion players can get their groove on learning tunes from the legendary Normand Miron, and lovers of call-and-response singing have their own workshop too, with a traditional song circle.

And of course, there is a stage for children. Storytelling, weaving of the colourful Ceintures Fleschée, and the making of Indigenous dream catchers are just a few of the things that will all captivate the kids.

There is truly something for everyone to enjoy at Festival Mémoire et Racines. Take a look at the website to plan your weekend, and don’t forget to book your campsite early!



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