Pop Montreal launches the 5 day schedule of its 21st edition!
Pop Montreal runs from Wednesday September 28th until Sunday October 2nd at a myriad of venues around the city, There are concerts, film screenings, conferences, workshops, art shows and so much more! Highlights of this year’s line-up includes post-rock icons Tortoise, the Canadian premiere of 1970s U.K. funk pioneers Cymande, Reggae icon Sister Nancy, Canada’s Drag Race winner Priyanka, Ghanaian electro rapper Ata Kak, teenage punk rockers The Linda Lindas, local sensation Martha Wainwright and a huge homecoming for Folk Alliance Artist of the Year and Juno award winner Allison Russell.
The festival kicks off Wednesday with one of the most important bands of all time CYMANDE! At 6pm there will be a screening of the documentary about them called “Getting it Back” at Cinema Moderne. At 8pm the concert at L’Entrepot 77 begins with support acts L’Rain, Syana and DJ Andy Williams.
Full confession: when I first read the announcement that they had booked Cymande, I literally jumped for joy and began dancing around my apartment. I never imagined I would get the chance to see them perform! Their mix of funk, jazz, calypso, Afro-beat, soul and rock is totally unique. Much like Black Sabbath, Cymande is one of the most important bands of all time due to how their influence led to the birth of new genres of music. Cymande were a seminal influence in the creation of Disco, Hip Hop and House Music.
Formed in 1971 by nine Afro-Caribbean men living in London, they released three albums before their break up in 1974. Despite charting low in in the top 100 of Billboard’s RnB charts and performing on Soul Train they never blew up to the level they deserved. But instead of fading into obscurity, early Hip Hop DJ’s like Kool Herc & Grandmaster Flash and disco DJ’s like Nicky Siano used their music as one of the foundations of their sets. They played their breaks so often that it led to Cymande becoming one of the most sampled bands of all time.
Cymande became one of the major building blocks of Hip Hop, sampled by Sugarhill Gang, De La Soul, EPMD, The KLF, MC Solaar, Soul II Soul, Heavy D, The Fugees, Wu-Tang Clan, Gang Starr, Queen Latifah and so many more. They are sampled in some of the first house music anthems like Raze’s “Jack the Groove” and in many other genres of electronic music.
In fact, it’s due to sampling that new generations discovered them, which led to a popular greatest hits album in 1991 and the group eventually reforming in 2014.
Another big coup for the FILM POP aspect of the festival was landing a screening of the new documentary about Sinéad O’Connor called “Nothing Compares“. The film was created by Kathryn Ferguson as a means of vindicating Sinéad as time has proven she was right about her allegations against the Catholic church. The Pop Montreal program describes the film as such :
“Has there ever been an artist so roundly condemned and then so wholly vindicated as Sinéad O’Connor? Nothing Compares makes a convincing and harrowing argument in the singer-songwriter’s favour. At just 23 years old, the unclassifiable Belfast-born musician topped world charts and became a household name. O’Connor used her platform to excoriate some of the world’s most safeguarded institutions, condemning the Gulf War, systemic racism, and the Catholic Church’s rampant abuse of women and children. Her efforts were initially brushed off, but her continued refusal to back down provoked a universal response. She was made into a pariah, a hysteric, and a joke. But in her own words, when they buried her, they didn’t realize she was a seed.”
The screening will take place on Friday September 30, 6:00 PM @ Cinéma Moderne.
With so many artists performing at Pop Montreal, it is tough to know where to start. So here is a quick list of my recommendations.
Opening night on Wednesday is all about Cymande. However the show is sold out so if you don’t have a ticket check out the soulful folky RnB of Allison Russel at the Rialto. She has been nominated for Grammy & Juno Awards, Prior to her solo career she was a member of popular bands such as Po’ Girl, Birds of Chicago, and Our Native Daughters.
On Thursday Sept 29th there are several options such as the all female teenage punk rock band The Linda Lindas at 7:30 pm at the Rialto. For something truly unique check out Medicine Singers at Entrepot 77 @ 8pm. The group is a collaboration between the first nations group Eastern Medicine Singers , electronic producer and guitarist Yonatan Gat, members of the band Swans and ambient music pioneer Laraaji.
Later that evening African artist Ata Kak will be peforming at the Rialto at 11:30. The program describes his music thus : “Ata Kak is the mysterious Ghanaian electronic/rap/highlife icon who kick-started the whole Awesome Tapes From Africa phenomenon. The music on the recording – an amalgam of highlife, Twi-language rap, funk, hip-hop and electronica – traverses a pop music landscape that encapsulates international modes while reflecting contemporary Ghanaian music of the period.”
Friday September 30th
Start your evening with the aforementioned Sinéad O’Connor documentary. Then check out the country / roots / Americana music stylings of local artist Li’l Andy and his new project where he created an intriguing alter ego named Hezekiah Proctor. The concert is at Quai Des Brumes at 8:30pm and features opening acts Westlaken, Abigail Lapell and Cassidy Mann. Andy describes his new project as such :
“Everything about this album is fake. The songs were written by me, but as a fictional old-time musician I created by the name of “Hezekiah Procter”. Starting in 1925, when he began playing in medicine shows and vaudeville, Procter became one of the early legends of string band music. He was there when companies like The Victor Talking Machine Co. began making money selling “hillbilly” music. By the time of his disappearance in 1930, he had done much to define what country music is. Cantankerous, God-fearing, and self-destructive, he is Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, and Charlie Poole all rolled into one. I was Hezekiah while I sang and played. And each musician became the characters that appear in Hezekiah’s life story. The recording sessions were as much acting as they were playing music.”
Another amazing option on Friday is to check out Martha Wainwright with Julie Doiron at the Rialto starting at 8:30pm. Surely Martha needs no introduction but just in case you aren’t familiar with her she is the daughter of folk musicians Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III and the younger sister of pop star Rufus Wainwright. She has released seven critically acclaimed albums and toured the world. Her new album Love Will Be Reborn was released in August. She has also appeared in films such as Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator.
Saturday October 1st
At 5pm Li’l Andy launches a book that tells the life story of his alter ego Hezekiah Proctor at pm at Librairie Résonance. If you are looking to get naughty on the dancefloor, sexually provocative Honduran Reggaeton artist Isabella Lovestory performs at 6pm at Casa Bianca. The show should be rather wild!
Experimental Indie Synth Pop artist Sheenah Ko performs at the Sala Rossa at 8pm. During the pandemic she made worldwide headlines when her song Wrap Me Up won Best Choreography at the 2020 UK Music Video Awards. She defeated videos by iconic major label artists like Beyoncé! Her music is very conceptual and unique. When not busy with her solo career she tours with popular bands like The Besnard Lakes.
“In 1982, Sister Nancy’s now-legendary dancehall song “Bam Bam” took Toots and the Maytals’ original lyric and transformed it into a rallying cry for female empowerment, a statement of Nancy’s intention to break through a ceiling more solid and opaque than glass to make it in the Jamaican music business.
Forty years on, she has surely fulfilled her most famous song’s own manifesto. “Bam Bam” has now been sampled by the likes of Kanye West, Lauryn Hill, and Jay-Z and appeared in countless films. Following its appearance in the hit TV show Ozark, “Bam Bam” recently attained a North American number-one.
“Bam Bam” initially escaped widespread attention in Jamaica, where it was rarely played on the radio or in the dancehall. But the most powerful art cannot be held back, and this incredibly infectious track succeeded in making the journey from rank obscurity to, decades later, taking its place in the mainstream of global popular culture.
The incredible story of “Bam Bam,” and how the song unexpectedly re-powered Sister Nancy’s musical career, is the story of a strong female lead battling a male-dominated system, often hostile to artists’ rights, to earn recognition and reward for the creation of one of reggae music’s defining statements. In the process, “Bam Bam” has become an instantly recognizable song that resonates across Jamaican music culture and far beyond. In 2017, Pitchfork named “Bam Bam” “The Best Dancehall Song of All Time”.
Sunday October 2nd
At Le System at 7pm Flint Magazine launches its 3rd issue. It looks like it will be an intriguing event! The program describes it thus :
“Volume MTL, Studio Safar and the Detroit Art Book Fair present the launch of the 3rd issue of Flint Magazine, an unbound multimedia journal modeled after Aspen Magazine, the highly influential art journal “in a box.” Like Aspen, each issue of Flint assembles a diverse collection of text, film, print, and sound, interweaving the tactile and the intangible in content and form.
The event features a set of music performances inspired by the work of the late Egyptian composer, musician, and ethnomusicologist Halim El-Dabh (1921-2017) and his forthcoming record The Wondrous Reverberations of Halim El-Dabh.
This event is organized in collaboration with Studio Safar and writer/musician Alexei Perry Cox. Studio Safar is a design agency and publisher (est 2012), with offices in Beirut and, now, Tiohtia:ke (Montreal). The studio adopts an experimental approach to design. Evoked by its name, the studio is concerned with notions of communication across cultural and linguistic barriers.”
Finally at 8:30pm drag queen divas will sashay over to the Rialto for a glamorous extravaganza starring Priyanka! The pop star and tv show host became the certified Queen of the Canadian Drag Scene by being crowned the winner of the inaugural season of Canada’s Next Drag Race! The show will feature sassy musical performances by drag performers such as Sisi Superstar, Awwful, Samantha Blake and Mirage.
Simon is 20 years into a life sentence in the music biz. He's performed at major international festivals and worked with Grammy Award winners. As Music Curator for BKM he gives you a sneak peek behind the curtain...