'French musical invasion' hits Yellowknife with 2 major francophone showcases

Two major francophone music events are set to begin this week. They're being billed as a 'French musical invasion.'

More than 100 music industry professionals expected to be in Yellowknife

Mireille Labbé (Yukon), Alpha Toshineza (Manitoba), Yves Lécuyer (N.W.T.) and Byrun Boutin-Maloney (Saskatchewan) are the four contestants taking part in the Chant'Ouest musical showcase this Thursday in Yellowknife. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

You don't have to speak French to appreciate francophone artists.

That's the message from Contact Ouest organizer Sylvain Aumont to people in Yellowknife as two major francophone music events are set to begin this week. They're being billed as a "French musical invasion." 

More than 100 music industry professionals from across Canada will be in town for the Chant'Ouest and Contact Ouest music showcases.

The Contact Ouest events will be open to the public and will present 18 francophone artists at the Northern Arts and Culture Centre.

Aumont says it's special for the event to come to Yellowknife for its tenth anniversary even if it costs between $10,000 and $15,000 more than it did to host last year's event in Regina.

Some equipment had to be flown in for the event, like an electric piano from Winnipeg.

"We were looking for a piano for an event that's outside of the NACC and the only two pianos available in Yellowknife are at the NACC," Aumont said. "For insurance purposes, and for understandable reasons, they do not allow those pianos to leave their premises."

The organizer of Contact Ouest says coming to Yellowknife meant a lot of planning, including asking for funding from different levels of government and booking the NACC two years in advance.

'Trust, charm and luck'

Along with Contact Ouest, the YK French Association is organizingChant'Ouest,an annual gala and concert featuring four emerging singer-songwriters, vying for the Western Canadian title on Sept. 14.

"That's the first time it's coming to Yellowknife," explained Pascaline Gréau, the association's executive director.

"We have requested to be part of the tour and we are now ready, we have the infrastructure and we have the people."

A mix of "trust, charm and luck" worked to get the event in Yellowknife, Gréau said. She wants to prove to the industry that there are resources and talents here.

"It's also very important for us to showcase Yellowknife, to show the Denendeh land, to make sure people have kind of a geography lesson also, like Yellowknife is not in Yukon and Whitehorse is not in the Northwest Territories."

Gréau says after-parties will also be organized to show Yellowknife's community and local artists who won't be on stage to the music industry professionals.

The winner of Chant'Ouest will perform at the International Music Festival in Granby, Que.