Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
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Misstress Barbara, Poirier, Wax Tailor


The catch-all category of electronica takes in currents in electronic music that derived from house and techno and crystallized in the United States during the 1980s before sweeping the globe in the late 20th century. During the 1990s, the genre spawned such stars as Moby, The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk. Among its Quebec-born ambassadors are DJ Champion, Misstress Barbara and Poirier.


The term electronica was first coined at the turn of the 21th century to designate various trends in electronic music that first came into being in the 1980s. Emerging during this period was an innovative style that borrowed from disco and funk - both of which enjoyed widespread popularity in the United States - but was also marked by electronic experimentation, with German-based groups Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk leading the way. On its influential albums Autobahn (1974) and Trans-Europe Express (1977), Kraftwerk used robotic, repetitive and hypnotic sounds held by many to illustrate the growing impact of new technologies on modern society.

A host of factors - greater access to synthesizers and samplers, the revolution brought about by beatboxes and MIDI systems, the transition to digital technology, the newfound possibilities inherent in mixing, modifying or combining various sounds and melodies - spurred the rise of house music in Chicago and techno in Detroit, the two chief vectors of electronic music in the 1980s.


Drawing inspiration from European techno-pop, Afrika Bambaataa's Planet Rock and the experimental efforts of Kraftwerk, American DJ, producer and remix artist Frankie Knuckles is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of house music. In the early 1980s, Knuckles was a fixture at Chicago's Warehouse club, where he used a beatbox to shape his mixes. Under his leadership, funk and disco beats were enriched with synthetic sound loops.

With the creation of Trax Records in 1984 and DJ International in 1985, house gained even broader appeal. The young and talented composers of this period included Jesse Saunders, whose tracks On and On and Funk You Up are now considered house classics.


Also gaining popular favour during this period was a Detroit-based brand of music dubbed "techno", characterized by cold, mechanical and robotic sounds, and rhythms more hard-edged and industrial than those of house. Inspired by radio host and DJ Electrifying Mojo, who gave considerable airplay to European electronic groups like Kraftwerk and Telex, young American musician Juan Atkins founded Metroplex, the first Detroit-based techno label, in 1985.

Carl Craig Fellow musicians Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson played a part in the genre's growing popular success. In 1986, each founded a record label - May creating Transmat and Saunderson KMS Records - as well as produced a string of hits, none more popular than Big Fun. Underground Resistance, the electronic music label founded by producers, musicians and DJs Mike Banks and Jeff Mills, also helped the genre to flourish. Artists such as Carl Craig, Kenny Larkin and Stacey Pullen personify the new wave of Detroit techno.

All the Rage in Europe

After earning widespread followings in Chicago and New York, house music quickly crossed the pond, where it was discovered by some well known English DJs. In 1987, Chicago house artists starred in London and Manchester - with the Hacienda club serving as nerve centre for house in the U.K. It was here that French DJ Laurent Garnier discovered the style he would go on to popularize in the trendy nightclubs of Paris in the early 1990s.

Techno quickly earned loyal legions of fans in England and Germany - particularly in Berlin through the Tresor label and nightclub. Techno's repetitive, hypnotic loops, soaring climaxes and ear-splitting beats supplied much of the dance material for a generation of clubbers.

Techno, house and its cousin, acid jazz, were the driving force behind the rave movement that first emerged in the U.K., with thousands of young people drawn to all-night trance parties. Acid-house was characterized by a heavy synthetic bass sound made popular by European groups such as S'Express and Technotronic.

Musical Progeny

Offshoots of techno and house that came along later include ambient house, hardcore, tech-house, trance, jungle, and drum'n'bass. Electronic music is also represented by more experimental branches such as intelligent dance music (IDM), long associated with the British label Warp and its flagship groups, none more influential than Autechre.

In the mid-1990s, electronic music began to steal some of the thunder from established rock stars, as DJs became music celebrities in their own right. Among the leading techno artists were Moby, The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, The Orb, Air and Underworld.

At the Festival

DJ Champion In 1999, a huge Festival crowd gathered to dance to the jazz- and electro-inspired Afro-Cuban rhythms of American DJ and techno producer Carl Craig and his Innerzone Orchestra. In 2003, the German collective Jazzanova brought its soulful blend of jazzy electro to the Festival.

Among the Quebec-based artists who've tread the boards at the Festival are Montrealer Akufen, who delivered an electrifying performance in 2005, and DJ Champion and his G-Strings, who brought down the house as part of the Grand Événement General Motors. The previous year, Champion treated Festival fans to a memorable show alongside Barbara Brown, alias Misstress Barbara. The Montréal-born DJ also appeared at the Festival in 2009 and 2010.

Beast In 2008, Guillaume & the Coutu Dumonts presented tracks from Face à l'Est (2007), their newest album, a techno house effort with touches of afro, funk, gospel and swing. The Festival's 2009 lineup included Montrealer DJ Kobal (who opened for Stevie Wonder), DJ and singer-songwriter Martin Granger (alias Dee), and Montreal-based quintet Pawa Up First, which blends dub, electro, hip hop and jazz. Also along for the party was Thunderheist, the tandem made up of Nigerian-born Toronto singer Isis and Montreal-based remixer, producer and DJ Grahm Zilla. Thunderheist is well known for its dance mixes combining hip hop, electro, funk and rap.

In 2010

Caravan Palace After making their Festival debut in 2008, Montréal duo Beast - made up of musician Jean-Phi Goncalvès and singer Betty Bonifassi - headlined the Événement spécial Bell in 2010. To mark the 20th anniversary of Ninja Tune, the famed English electronica label, the 2010 Festival played host to English DJ Andy Carthy (alias Mr. Scruff), singer Andreya Triana, DJ and musician Bonobo, DJ Food, as well as Kid Koala and The Slew Live project. Poirier gave a high-spirited performance at Club Soda on June 28, teaming up with Kode9 to concoct a dance-electro Karnival tinged with soca and tropical rhythms. Finally, French electro-swing-manouche group Caravan Palace shared the same concert bill with French DJ Wax Tailor.

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