Montreal has been called The most European city in North America. This Canadian city is located in the French-speaking province of Quebec and is a hotbed of artistic and cultural activities year round.
Although it is mostly populated by French speaking Québécois, it has a sizeable group of English speakers and a fast growing immigrant population from Africa & North Africa, the French Caribbean, Latin America, China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, the Arab world and several European countries.
There are two types of music of interest to World Music aficionados: The Folk music from Quebec is known as Québecois and it has strong connections with the Celtic cultures of Europe as well as Acadian. Other musical styles found in Montreal have been brought by immigrants from other nations. Mexican-American singer Lhasa is probably the best known import. A popular Dominican merengue artist, Joaquín Díaz, is based in Montreal, as well as many other noted World Music artists and bands.
Several excellent record stores are located in Montreal aside from the unavoidable HMV type stores. One should definitely check out Archambault (4 locations throughout the city) which has an amazing World Music, Folk & Jazz selection as well as a wide variety of books. The main store which is located on the corner of Ste Catherine Street East & rue Berri also sells fine musical instruments as well as sheet music.
There are many second hand record stores in Montreal which are worth checking out for hard to find albums & discs. Crazy Rhythms on Metcalfe St. is definitely a must-go. There are a lot of used record stores (L’Échange, le Tourne-Livre and many more) on Mont-Royal East not far from the metro station.
Several well known companies are based in Montreal. Distribution Fusion III is one of the largest independent distributors in Canada, with a large catalogue of Jazz and World Music titles. Its record label arm, Justin Time Records produces Jazz recordings.
As in other Canadian cities, Montreal has several large Folk and Jazz festivals which feature World Music among their varied musical fares (i.e. The Montreal International Jazz Festival, Les FrancoFolies de Montréal, Festival Nuits d’Afrique, the Montreal Reggae Festival, Festival Musiques Multi-Montréal, Musiques & Traditions du Monde, Festival du Monde Arabe, La Nuit du Maghreb).
These two festivals are amongst the largest in the world. The 25th edition of the Jazz Festival (12 days at the end of June/beginning of July) which took place in the Summer of 2004 brought in close to 2 million festival-goers and featured a total of 880 indoor and free outdoor performances with top international artists.
The 16th edition of Les FrancoFolies de Montréal (11 days at the end of July/beginning of August) which specialize in music coming from all over the Francophone world brought in a crowd of 950.000 people and presented 300 indoor & free outdoor performances.
Festival Nuits D'Afrique. This large world music festival takes place the second week of July every year.
The Montreal Arab World Festival (Festival du Monde Arabe) presents works in its three fields: Performing Arts, Culture Fair and Film Festival.
Italmelodie on Jean-Talon St East (check out the Jean-Talon Market while you’re at it, it’s great!).
Articles about Montreal: Montreal, A City Ripe for World Music