The white iris flowers layered the crowd of waving Québécois flags like a wild field on a windy summer night; the flowers symbolize purity, French Canadian history, and Québec’s deeply embedded roots in the Catholic Church. It was June 24th, the date of my arrival in Montréal and more popularly known as St. Jean Baptiste or la Fête Nationale du Québec. I arrived at my friend’s apartment to briefly unload my luggage before borrowing a bike to ride down to the Park Maisonneuve—dedicated to the French military officer who founded Montréal in the mid-17th century. I arrived to a massive crowd draped in Québec’s national colors of blue and white. There were so many flags waving that walking through the crowd was like an obstacle course; I was even whacked in the face by one while trying to approach the stage! Numerous Québécois popular music groups performed to an enthusiastic crowd that recited the lyrics song-after-song.
The concert on St. Jean Baptiste was an excellent introduction to the national sentiments and phenomenal support for the arts I would encounter countless times during my two-month stay in Montréal. As evident in the continual music festivals including le Festival du Jazz, le Festival Internationale Nuits d’Afrique, and le Francopholie (just to name a few), the music never ceases during Montréal’s comfortably warm and humid summer climate.
While in Montréal, I took engaging courses on the French language and Québec Culture and Society at the Université de Montréal, attended innumerable concerts where I conducted interviews with musicians, and even spent forty hours throughout the summer with a Québécois professor with whom I visited Montréal’s museums, libraries, and art galleries, or simply met at a cafe to study French grammar. Thanks to these opportunities, my research on the importance and diversity of hip-hop in Québécois society—in addition to the progress I made in French—will significantly improve my masters papers, and has granted me an unforgettable summer.
Cody Case is a graduate student in Ethnomusicology and received a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship to study French in Montréal this last summer. He is conducting research on hip-hop music in Québec and how the music reflects the immigration experience in the province.