Posts Tagged ‘quebec city

Phoque Paul McCartney

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Paul McCartney eating meat

Paul McCartney eating meat

Québec City is know for being old, boring and white. A pretty place with a glorious past but whose recent contributions to art, history and culture are far and few between. It’s a wonder anybody is surprised Québec City would ask for (and obtain) a special show by Paul McCartney, the world’s most famous has-been and the idol of old white people worldwide, as it’s special treat for it’s 400th birthday.

Hey, it’s their birthday…

The controversy over Paul McCartney’s show on the Plains of Abraham as part of Québec City’s 400th anniversary celebrations has been erroneously portrayed in the media – this includes Québec’s French-language press – as another fight between bitter Québec separatists who object to an Englishman signing in English in Québec and open-minded federalists who have moved on.

That’s not at all what it’s about.

To understand the controversy properly you need to know two things about Québec City; the first is that Québec City is Québec’s most pro-Canadian town outside Montreal’s English-speaking enclaves and the Outaouais. The second is that it is one of the worlds biggest markets for very very bad music.

Legend has it that the young Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins were about to give up on their pretentious nerd rock band Genesis until they started selling tickets in, of all places, Québec City. The loyal public they found there allowed them to live off their music a little bit longer, until other college students who don’t date started buying their albums.

Québec City is and has always been a place where retired Quebecers and tired music went to wait for death. To this day it is common to hear Rush’s Tom Sawyer and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon between Usher and Avril Lavigne on Québec’s commercial radio stations. Genesis cover band The Musical Box is another one of the summers headliners who will play the Battlefields Park and Elvis Story, a musical revue of the King’s life and music had a near 10 year run at the Capitole, Québec’s historic theater in the heart of the old city!

Just take a look at the headliners of the Festival d’été de Québec this summer: Van Halen, Stone Temple Pilots, Primus, Wyclef Jean… Wasn’t that the lineup at Lollapalooza 98?

That’s Québec city for you…

Nor is it surprising that the people of Québec City did not anticipate that the symbolism of the leader of the so-called “British Invasion” playing on the Plains of Abraham where Britain conquered New France just maybe might offend some people in Québec.

You see, contrary to widespread belief in Canada, Québec City is a conservative and federalist bastion, with even the local chapter of the ultra-nationalist Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste still on the fence about national unity. In the 1995 referendum on sovereignty, Québec City’s francophones (that is to say everybody) were among the least favorable to independence in all the province.

Hey, when the Parti québécois offically designated Québec City as Québec’s “National Capital”, the only opposition came from Québec City itself!

Now imagine if the the big finale of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations in Ottawa in 2017 was Bruce Springsteen singing Born in the USA! Canadian nationalists would be setting themselves on fire on Parliament Hill! The issue would not be the talent of The Boss or the “open-mindedness” of Canadians. It would just be the wrong event at the wrong time.

It is, however, a little more surprising that organizers did not anticipate that the victims of Paul McCartney’s very visible and dishonest campaign against seal hunting, the only livelyhood of many native and remote communities in Québec, would not seize the occasion to take a shot back at him.

But hey, contrary to what Stephen Harper, Pauline Marois and Paris Match have tried to tell you, this summer’s celebration is not about Canada, the Québec Nation or New France. It’s about Québec City.

And Québec City and Paul McCartney deserve each other.

Written by angryfrenchguy

July 19, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Black in Quebec City: Webster is Writing His Story

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The first record of a black man in Québec City was Mathieu Da Costa who traveled with the city’s founder Samuel de Champlain as early as 1604 or 1607.

For a city that sometimes seems to be all about history, Québec City sometimes has a short memory.  Just ask Aly N’Diaye a.k.a. Webster, who 400 years after Da Costa often feels like a stranger at home just because he’s black.

“This is where I’m from. My world is here. All the sons of immigrants are gone, to Montreal, Toronto or the States. We are first generation to say: fuck that! You’re not chasing us out! If we go it’s always the same pattern starting all over again.”

Webster is the son of a white mother and an Senegalese father. He studied History at Québec’s Laval university and with his cool lazy flow he is now passing down his knowledge to the kids of Québec City’s surprisingly vibrant hip hop scene. Everything in Québec City, it seems, is about History.

In his song Québec History X from his first solo album Sagesse Immobile (Still Wisdom) Webster raps about Da Costa, who spoke a variety of European and native languages and was employed as Champlain’s interpreter, and other forgotten blacks from Québec’s past, like the 10 000 slaves of New France. “There were blacks in New France. Slaves, but also free men. If that history was better known blacks in Québec would feel a whole lot more integrated.”.

The truth is Québec City has had many different faces over the years, from an Iroquoian village called Stadacona, the capital of New-France, an often very English city after the British conquest of 1763, a diverse and bustling port town and, after business and ship traffic moved upstream to Montreal, the sleepy and homogeneous French-speaking provincial capital of today.

Or should we say yesterday… Once again the city is being transformed by the arrival of new immigrants from Haïti, the Middle East and Africa.

Webster’s native Limoilou district is where Jacques Cartier spent the winter in 1535-36 and his day job is at the Parc National Cartier-Brébeuf commemorating the explorer’s encounter with local native populations. Today it’s a diverse neighborhood that he and his friends call L.Land. “In a bigger City like Montreal people tend to regroup culturally. In Québec City there it’s more mixed. In Limoilou, people of all races live together.”

Unlike in Montreal, language is actually not much of an issue in La Capitale Nationale. “When you arrive somewhere, you have to learn the language. In Québec City, to function, you need to learn French. That’s it.” Webster himself used to rap in English – his name comes from the English dictionary he used to carry around – but he switched to French in 1995. “The identity of Québec Hip Hop was starting to take shape at that time and I wanted to be part of it.”

In 2008 Québec City is celebrating the 400th anniversary of it’s foundation by Champlain. The event commemorates, depending on who you ask, the birth of Canada as a country, or Québec as a nation.

A true historian, Webster doesn’t want to take sides, on that issue or the eternal debate on Québec’s independence from Canada.

“I think the issue of independence is becoming obsolete. If it had to be done, it should’ve been done in the 1980’s. A country that wants it’s independence gets up and takes it. That’s all. If it happens, though, I will be happy from the historical point-of-vue. To see that live, from the inside. To live history. I’d love to see that.”

More interviews:

AngryFrenchguy talks to KRS-One and Alexis Wawanoloath

Written by angryfrenchguy

March 9, 2008 at 6:21 pm