The Music Lover’s Guide to Montreal
By Tausha Cowan
Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Joss Stone, Beres Hammond, Lady Saw, The Black Keys, Destra, and the list goes on. These are just a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of musical artists passing through Montreal this summer.
As the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec, Montreal is often referred to as the Paris of North America — full of romantic charm, amazing food and beautiful buildings. What many people are unaware of, however, is that Montreal is also a music lover’s dream. Actually, more like a music lover’s paradise! Whether it’s hip-hop, jazz, reggae, soul, indie or electronic, you’ll find your musical preference in Montreal.
With so many options to choose from, how does a music lover make the most of everything the city has to offer? These eight music festivals are a great place to start:
Featuring thousands of artists and hundreds of concerts (most of which are free), the world famous Montreal International Jazz Festival is about much more than jazz. Countless genres are covered as people from all over the globe gather in Downtown Montreal to celebrate and listen to great music. Over the last 36 years, the festival has seen many world-renowned artists, including Prince, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Seal and, most recently, Erykah Badu and Joss Stone. The number of free outdoor concerts during the festival also makes it the perfect event for the music lover on a budget.
The purpose of Nuits d’Afrique is to celebrate the music and culture of the African diaspora, and that’s exactly what it does. What started as a day for people of all cultures to come together to enjoy world music has since turned into almost two weeks of performances, workshops and events honoring Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. The concerts feature artists from more than 35 countries, while the workshops cover everything from West African percussions to samba dance lessons. The food and flavors of the diaspora are also represented throughout the festival, making this event a must-attend for both music lovers and foodies.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival is the place for up-and-coming talent to play alongside some of the world’s most well-known international artists. Past festivals have seen big names such as: The Roots, Coldplay and Snoop Dogg. This year, there will be approximately 100 bands and artists — including Florence and the Machine, Kendrick Lamar, RL Grime and Milky Chance — playing on multiple stages over the course of three days. Festivalgoers can buy tickets per day or purchase a weekend pass in order to attend.
Piknic Electronik is the place to be for electronic music fans, or for anyone who just wants to hang out with friends while enjoying gorgeous views of Downtown Montreal from Parc Jean-Drapeau. Every Sunday from May to September, Piknic Electronik hosts a lineup of DJs and artists who play from 2 p.m. until well into the night. The dancing, food trucks, drinks and overall ‘chill’ vibe make it a great event for anyone simply looking to have a good time with friends. Piknic Electronik has since expanded and can also now be found in Barcelona, Melbourne, Dubai, Paris and Cannes.
Calling all reggae music lovers! Every year, the Montreal International Reggae Festival highlights this popular music genre, as well as all the sounds that have evolved from reggae — dancehall, dubstep, ska, mento and rock steady, to name a few. The festival also showcases calypso and R&B music, boasting a yearly lineup of well-known artists such as Shabba Ranks and Cocoa Tea. Over the course of three days, the festival celebrates the Jamaican roots of reggae and uses music to honor its continuous theme of unity against violence.
The MEG (Montreal Electronique Groove) Montreal Festival is focused on showcasing up-and-coming talent in hip-hop, pop, electronic and rock. Past performers have included Santigold, MIA and Tiga, as well as countless other emerging artists. MEG Montreal takes place at various venues throughout the city, but the highlight of the festival is the party on the MEG boat, which kicks off at midnight and goes into the early morning. The festival also exposes new talent to the industry through the Osheaga MEG ‘Pro Panel,’ where artists have the chance to meet with agents, managers and other members of the music industry.
For anyone who loves soca, dancehall and kompa, Carifiesta is the place to be. This Caribbean carnival is the second largest in Canada and has been going on for 40 years. Watch from the sidelines or join in as trucks with music showcasing their respective islands make their way down Saint Catherine Street in Downtown Montreal. Masqueraders representing Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Cuba, Grenada, Bahamas and various other Caribbean countries fill the streets as they dance to island music and wave their flags in the air.
This not-for-profit indie music festival has been celebrating international and local talent since 2002. With performances taking place mainly in the Plateau neighborhood in Montreal, this five-day event has featured big names like Sheryl Crow and Beck, while also giving many rising artists the opportunity to showcase their talent. In addition to musical performances, POP Montreal holds discussions, exhibitions, industry events, film screenings and fashion shows for more than 50,000 participants.
Tausha is a media and communications professional and founder of theglobegetter.com. She got her first taste of international travel at a very young age and has been hooked ever since. Born in South Florida to Jamaican parents, she's also lived in Ghana, London and Paris and now resides in New York City. Tausha enjoys storytelling, creating travel itineraries (sometimes for real trips), dinner parties and seeking out new restaurants. Her weaknesses include tacos, French macarons and an Olivia Pope-sized glass of wine.