Joyful, energetic music with Bon Débarras
Wednesday, May 07, 2014 06:00 am
Every year the Northern Alberta International Children’s Festival books a lively foot-stomping group. And this year the bouncy, up-tempo Bon Débarras fills the slot.
The Montreal-based trio’s name roughly translates into “Good Riddance.” But in an odd paradox, the group’s energetic traditional step dancing generally evokes a “wow.”
Bon Débarras spokesperson Jean-Francoise Dumas patiently explains that the choice of their quirky moniker was based on two things.
“Bon Débarras has two meanings. One is ‘good riddance’ and good riddance is about getting rid of sorrow, anger and all negative energy. We let it go when we play music. We let it out. Also in French, débarras is a place to keep old stuff you don’t want to get rid of. We are like a storage closet where we can go and find traditional influences and inspiration.”
Dumas is the trio’s drummer, even though snare, kick and cymbals are not part of his toolkit. He specializes in podorythmie – a popular French form playing percussion using only feet and the floor.
His longtime band mate Dominic Desrochers, a well-known Quebecois singer and step-dancer, also plays banjo, guitar and washboard. Rounding out the ensemble is virtuoso Cedric Dind-Lavoie on upright bass and accordion.
Together they are a high-powered trio melding American and Quebec influences to form a distinct sound of their own.
Bon Débarras was born after three dynamic creators pooled their energy. While remaining true to their roots, they also tapped into the rhythms of today creating a one-of-a-kind fusion that has echoes of Scottish, country, bluegrass and rockabilly.
In 2013, the ensemble dropped its second album, Errance, meaning “wanderer.”
“It was inspired by the francophone memory of America. We are like the Acadian, the Cajun. We all have a French connection. We wander all over the map.”
Unlike other Quebec-based bands such as Le Vent du Nord that use the traditional fiddle, strings and accordion, Bon Débarras prefers banjo, piano and accordion.
“And we include dance. Dominic comes from a tap dancing background. He went looking for more vocabulary in his research and discovered a gum boot dance, Hungarian dance and body percussion.”
Unlike Bon Débarras’ first self-title album that hinged mostly on traditional works, Errance is mainly original tunes each with their own vibe.
Reel facile has a strong start right out the gate and is loaded with tight harmonies, a funky harmonica and serious banjo action.
Chanson du forcat translated into the “song of the convict” creates a tempo with a chain-gang feel whereas Vagancia is more delicate with the use of a mouth harp and good support from the double bass.
Humour is a big part of Chien fidèle, a song about the singer’s dying dog, which you might think would bring on a rush of tears. But after the dog dies, the percussion gears up and the singer dances a jig on the car that killed his dog and stomps the hell out of it.
Yes, Bon Débarras is promising a lot of fun.
“Come, you’ll feel better. Music is joyful and there’s a lot of energy in it. It makes me feel alive when I play and it makes you feel alive. Hopefully you will dance too.”