Le Vent Du Nord's 400-Year-Old Musical Gems The Canadian folk band Le Vent du Nord is a champion of traditional francophone music in North America. Their recordings and performances are getting plenty of attention, especially during the yearlong celebration of Quebec City's 400th anniversary.
NPR logo

Le Vent Du Nord's 400-Year-Old Musical Gems

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/91964712/92060265" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Le Vent Du Nord's 400-Year-Old Musical Gems

Le Vent Du Nord's 400-Year-Old Musical Gems

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/91964712/92060265" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Americans are getting ready to celebrate the Fourth, and some of our neighbors to the north are also marking a major birthday in July. Thursday is the 400th anniversary of Quebec City, one of the oldest cities in North America. To join the party, we brought in our own breath of wind from the north.

(Soundbite of Music)

Mr. NICOLAS BOULERICE (Musician, Le Vent du Nord): (Singing) (Speaking foreign language).

MONTAGNE: This band that you're hearing is called, literally, Wind From the North, or Le Vent du Nord, in French, and two of its members have joined us from our studios of the CBC in Montreal. Good morning, bon jour, I should say, I supposed.

Mr. BOULERICE: Bon jour.

Mr. OLIVIER DEMERS (Musician, Le Vent du Nord): Bon jour.

MONTAGNE: Would you please introduce yourselves.

Mr. BOULERICE: I am Nicolas Boulerice, and I play accordion, piano, I sing, and I also play the hurdy gurdy.

Mr. DEMERS: I'm Olivier Demers. In the band, I play violin, and I do also the foot-tapping.

MONTAGNE: We'll hear more about those feet in a minute. For now, let's just say that because this music is of Quebec, it's a mix of everything and everyone who ever lived or landed in that province. You have French lyrics, Celtic tunes, an Irish jig or two, even the music of Native Americans.

Band members Nicolas Boulerice and Olivier Demers say these songs are like antiques, and they collect them.

Mr. DEMERS: We do try to preserve the repertoire with not already picked or recorded.

Mr. BOULERICE: A lot of people - it's Nicolas talking - a lot of people told us we are like a guard, or guardian.

MONTAGNE: Guardians of the tradition.

(Soundbite of Laughter)

Mr. BOULERICE: Yes, a little bit, something like that. The old people want to know if you are respectful, you know, if you sing those songs in the way of the tradition.

Mr. DEMERS: This is the magic of it is we want to keep the real soul of the (unintelligible) tune with that little crooked part or that little out-of-tune way, typically from Quebec, to play it.

MONTAGNE: Give us an example of one of those rare songs that you collected from, you know, an older person and that you treated with the respect that it was due.

Mr. BOULERICE: We met a guy in St. Guillaume. It's a little village like 45 minutes away, out of Montreal. I don't know - I don't remember why we heard about that guy. I think the mayor of the village was - he said oh yeah, we have a very good singer in the village, and we said why not? And so we just knocked at his door, and we said hello, we are musicians, we love music. And we started drinking and singing with him, and he had a wonderful voice. And he sing many kind of beautiful songs. And one of them, it's "La beauté du mariage," the beauty of the wedding. It goes a little bit like that that.

(Soundbite of song, "La beauté du mariage,")

Mr. BOULERICE: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language).

MONTAGNE: Olivier Demers, I heard your feet on a board.

Mr. DEMERS: Yes, exactly. It's the traditional percussion in Quebec. Because in the kitchen parties in the big family because of our Catholic ancestor, we had like 15, 20 children in the same family.

Mr. BOULERICE: Per room.

Mr. DEMERS: So the Saturday night evening was very important. Probably there was one fiddle player, and the fiddler had to do the foot-tapping to make them dance all in the same beat.

(Soundbite of foot tapping)

Mr. DEMERS: We can dance on very crooked tunes like one, one, one, one, one. It's not one, two, three four.

(Soundbite of Music)

MONTAGNE: There's one song on this CD, it's "La Fille et les Dragons"

Mr. BOULERICE: Yeah, "La Fille et les Dragons."

MONTAGNE: And I'm curious about it on a number of levels. One is what it says. It's a little story, which is sort of strange and dream-like.

(Soundbite of song, "La Fille et les Dragons")

Mr. BOULERICE and Mr. DEMERS: (Singing): (Speaking foreign language).

Mr. BOULERICE: You know that the dragon that we're talking about, the woman and the dragon, if you translate it, (unintelligible), they are the knights.

MONTAGNE: Like dragoons in…

Mr. BOULERICE: Yeah, maybe yes. In fact, a young lady decides to stay with those soldier. She just said you know, that guy just…

Mr. DEMERS: Brush my hair.

Mr. BOULERICE: Brush my hair. The other one cleaned my house, and I am just sitting on the knee of the third one.

Mr. DEMERS: And so I'm very happy. I don't want to go back home.

MONTAGNE: One thing about the song is it goes from this sort of ancient dream-like space to a sort of modern feel.

(Soundbite of song, "La Fille et les Dragons")

Mr. BOULERICE: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language).

Mr. BOULERICE: It's our kind of scat. We called that turlutte. It's also to imitate - the flute was a very, very popular instrument. And in French, when you learn the flute, you have to do it tu(ph), tu, tu, tu, tu with the mouth, so it became turlutte.

(Soundbite of song, "La Fille et les Dragons")

Mr. BOULERICE and Mr. DEMERS: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

Mr. BOULERICE: So it's a way to fake because we didn't have a lot of musicians, but we have a lot of singers.

Mr. DEMERS: Yeah, it's also a way to express joy without anything. You know, the life was very hard here for - to cut the trees and to try to survive, and it's quite north. So as you imagine, the winters, especially this winter, was like six meters and a half of snow. But at the time, you know, with not that much eat and it was a hard life. but without any fiddle, without anything, they got together to make this beautiful place called Quebec now.

MONTAGNE: Thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. BOULERICE: Our pleasure. Merci.

Mr. DEMERS: Thanks for inviting us.

MONTAGNE: Olivier Demers and Nicolas Boulerice, two members of the four-person band from Quebec, Le Vent Du Nord.

(Soundbite of Music)

MONTAGNE: This weekend, while folks here in the states celebrate the Fourth of July, our friends to the north mark the 400th anniversary of Quebec City. Later, this band will be heading our way, too.

Mr. DEMERS: Le Vent Du Nord will be in USA at plenty of festivals this summer, so come to hear us and come dancing with us.

MONTAGNE: Aviento.

Mr. BOULERICE: Aviento.

Mr. DEMERS: Aviento.

(Soundbite of Music)

Mr. BOULERICE: (Singing) (Speaking foreign language).

MONTAGNE: Hear more songs from Le Vent Du Nord. Please look for the music section at NPR.org. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Ari Shapiro.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.