Few things inspire joie de vivre quite like live music.
And so, in the kitchen-party spirit of Festival du Voyageur, more than 130 acts will take stages across Winnipeg's French Quarter over the course of the 10-day event, which kicks off today and runs until Feb. 23.
The genre-spanning lineup features the best francophone and anglophone acts Manitoba has to offer, including recent Juno nominees Royal Canoe, Don Amero, Sierra Noble, áa Claque!, the Lytics, collage--trois, Claire Morrison, Red Moon Road, Crooked Brothers, Patti Lamoureux, the F-Holes, Sweet Alibi, Boats, Daniel Roa, Indian City and many more.
Now in its 45th year, Western Canada's largest winter festival has steadily built a strong reputation for the quality and breadth of its local music programming. (Festival du Voyageur is even sponsoring the Francophone Album of the Year award at next month's Juno Awards.)
"It's grown every single year, and this year's is the biggest lineup ever," says Julien Desaulniers, artistic producer for Festival du Voyageur.
"We feature more Manitoba acts than any other Manitoba festival."
Desaulniers is consistently impressed by the pool of talent he has to pull from, referencing a stat from Richard Florida's Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life. "Winnipeg makes up 2.25 per cent of the country's population, but it's home to 12 per cent of Canada's musicians."
Many of Manitoba's brightest francophone acts got their start on Festival du Voyageur stages, including franco-folk luminaries Oh My Darling and the buzzed-about Dugas (brother-and-sister duo Christian and Sarah Dugas), who are both performing at the festival.
The festival has a rich history of musical community-building; the Radio-Canada television series Pour un soir seulement -- which pairs up acclaimed francophone artists for special one-off concerts -- has held tapings at the Centre culturel franco-manitobain during the festival for the past seven years.
This year, Manitoba Music has teamed up with Festival du Voyageur for a new industry event. The inaugural Rame la rencontre will include two showcases for up-and-coming francophone artists from Western Canada, as well as an afternoon industry panel and networking opportunities to help them expand their careers.
Manitoba artists Jocelyne Baribeau, Justin Lacroix and Marijosée will be performing at Promenade Cafe and Wine on Feb. 21. Alberta's Rapha´l Freynet, and Saskatchewan's Shawn Jobin and Anique Granger will perform Feb. 22 at Le Garage Café. The showcases are open to the public.
Joel Couture, Manitoba Music's francophone music program co-ordinator, says the event offers the Franco-Manitoban music community an opportunity to connect with industry tastemakers and learn about the business of breaking into other markets -- particularly Quebec, home to the country's most robust francophone music industry.
"We want to strengthen the relationship between the west and Quebec," he says. "It's important to get these two groups to meet."
And there's no better meeting place than Festival du Voyageur.
"Most of the delegates who are coming are from Quebec and they're excited," Couture says. "They've heard of the festival because they've had artists who have played it."
For the complete festival lineup, set times and venue information, visit festivalvoyageur.mb.ca.