August 12, 2022

The Queens County Citizen

Complete Canadian News World

The Tortured Genius of Tom-Toms

The Tortured Genius of Tom-Toms

Inside Montreal, journalist Louis-Philippe Messier mainly runs, his backpack in his office, looking for fascinating things and people. He talks to everyone and is interested in all areas of this town’s history.

Who manages the famous James Tom-Toms du Mont Royal Sundays? Well… no one!

This activity owes its existence to many regulars and is not dependent on any group.

“Do you know another event that doesn’t need an organizer?” I am not! Monique Provost is an ethnomusicologist specializing in the adaptation of the practice of the djembe (or Malian drum) in Quebec.

Ethnomusicologist Monique Provost is arguably the most knowledgeable Quebecer on the history and dynamics of tom-toms.

Photo by Martin Alary

Ethnomusicologist Monique Provost is arguably the most knowledgeable Quebecer on the history and dynamics of tom-toms.

The 66-year-old researcher recently self-published a lighter version of her doctoral thesis at Laval University, where she traced the evolution of Tom-Toms du Mont Royal.

She attended these from the age of 19 in the late 1970s. Then they were about 10 years old and already looked like a Sunday tradition.

-As early as 1970, Michel Seguin, the percussionist who popularized djembe in Quebec (and played for Robert Charlebois and Elvis Presley), gathered friends at the foot of Montreal’s Mt.

“These enthusiasts came to learn from Michel Seguin,” says Monique Provost.

Soon, a certain Don Hill, a crowd leader, is inviting dozens of players at once. Jam.

“Tom-toms took on such a scale that they moved beginning musicians, who had to learn to tame the chaos of the enthusiast without technique,” Monique Provost explained to me.

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This dichotomy defines the tormented genius of Tom-Toms.

“Even today there are people who know how to play and who play,” says Ethnomusical.

Tom-Toms in 2020 is the founder of Michel Seguin.

Photo by Louis-Philippe Messier

Tom-Toms in 2020 is the founder of Michel Seguin.

the wedge

Around a statue of Sir George-Étienne Cartier, a djembe player begins the rhythm with brio and authority. He stops suddenly. Loud choppy drums cacophonize… and it’s an immediate stampede.

“Look at the circle of drums over there, under the wild apple tree, these are musicians who went a little too far to build and develop beautiful rhythms,” Ms. Provost explains to me.

Immediately, the dancers (only women during my visit) left the statue’s surroundings and moved into this group of people who were sure to play.

“An African dance troupe was already set up on a hill and all eyes were there!” recalls Monique Provost.

“You never know what’s going to happen, there’s no program. »

successor of Rigodon

Who would have thought that the Malian drum would become one of our Sunday traditions?

“Our culture is associated with the djembe because these drums are more common than the violins in our homes,” Ms. Provost said.

These drumming afternoons evoke those Canadian evenings when people gather for the pleasure of being together: to rejoice, to dance.

“At tom-toms, people socially form the body thanks to rhythm, which is an essential function of being human,” the ethnologist concluded.

This iconic event doesn’t seem to be disappearing in Montreal now.

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