The opening chords, a single strum. The crowd goes wild, moving forward to see the artist as he takes the stage. He yells something at the crowds, words that I can’t distinguish. It’s all said in French.
Over 12-days more than 1,000 French language performers are seen by around 500,000 people at les FrancoFolies de Montreal – the world’s largest French-speaking music festival – and I felt like I was the only English-speaker amongst the crowd.
On the streets of Montreal you need not worry about French. Everything is easy to decipher and oddly familiar despite the words being in a strange yet oddly beautiful language. It’s comfortable, as most locals are only too happy to speak English, unlike Paris where people almost refuse to communicate you unless you attempt to speak French first; but amongst the crowd at les FrancoFolies the French language flowed, as performers took to stages across the festival area. There by myself, I felt a little lost.
I’d specifically chosen to come to the festival in hope that the French music would inspire me and help me continue to learn the language – singers like Zaz and Quebec-born Marie-Mai had inspired and pushed me to learn more in the past – and that I’d be able to put my limited language skills to the test. Instead of bumbling my way through the experience I was a nervous mess and felt incredibly overwhelmed.
One thing I found comfort in was that is was a music festival; attending festivals in Australia is my summer tradition. As the bands played people sang or danced- I could do that even if I didn’t understand the lyrics or the wisps of conversations that passed by me, or people wandered over to the food carts or bars – something I definitely understood!
Many of the les Francofolies performances are free, making it a great introduction to the world of French music and opportunity to immerse yourself in French culture. I wandered past just three of the seven stages and enjoyed everything from indie vibes, acoustic guitar sets to more pop-centric performances.
Throughout the day there were other events happening outside the festival zone, all part of the busy calendar of events that take place in Montreal’s summer, but the music which began as the sun began to set was the hallmark of the day.
Weaving my way through the crowds in front of the stage it became less about my inability to comprehend the text and more about the emotional connection. The music was good, the atmosphere was alive, and there was a beat I couldn’t get out of my head – I had to join the mass of people as they danced their way into the night.
C’était une belle nuit.
It was a beautiful night.
Do you use music to learn a language?
Have you ever been to a music festival in a language that you didn’t speak?
Les FrancoFolies de Montreal run for 11-days each summer in the heart of Montreal, Quebec.
Many of the events during the festival are free, including those in the Place des Arts. See the Les FrancoFolies website for more information.
The 26th edition of Les FrancoFolies will be held June 13 – June 21, 2014.
Many thanks to Tourisme Montreal for supporting me on this leg on my Explore Canada adventure.
A big thanks also to Les FrancoFolies de Montreal for supplying me with a Media pass.
All opinions, as always, are my own.
Post Image: Dylan Lowe