Getting to know Patrice Boulianne
Patrice Boulianne and a couple of friends formed the band Blou, based in Meteghan, NS, in 1994, creating a show to engage Acadian youth throughout the Atlantic Provinces. Twenty years later, with its high-energy blend of Acadian, Cajun and zydeco music—self-dubbed “Acadico”—Blou is a six-time East Coast Music Award winner, has toured 37 countries, promoting French Canadian culture throughout the world, and has just released a new CD, “20 Temps.” Patrice spoke to Saltscapes about his adopted Acadian home, kitchen parties, and growing up in St. Boniface, Manitoba, the largest Francophone community in Western Canada.
Q Do you come from a musical family?
A Yes, very much so. My mother sang French lullabies to us when we were kids. My father is a choir director, a great Elvis impersonator, a big fan of Jerry Lee Lewis and a huge Mozart lover. He loved harmony. We’d even sing at the kitchen table. When I’d go to my friends,’ and there was no singing, I’d ask, “What’s wrong with you guys?”
Q How did you learn to play music?
A I started singing at five because my father wanted me to stop running up and down the aisles at church.
Q When did you learn about Acadian music?
A When I was 13, my father bought a vinyl of [the band] 1755 and said, “Here, you should listen to this.”
Q You moved from Manitoba to Moncton in 1982. Why?
A In the summer of ’81, I hitchhiked across Atlantic Canada. I went to the Atlantic Folk Festival [in Rawdon Hills, NS] and saw Rita MacNeil, was blown away by her voice and the hospitality of Maritime people. I enrolled in the music program at Moncton University.
Q Why did you choose to move to Nova Scotia’s Acadian community of Meteghan?
A I met my wife in Moncton—she’s from Meteghan. I arrived late and when I finally got in my classes, there was an empty desk right beside her.
Q Did music help you fit in?
A Oh yeah. In ’94, I met Len LeBlanc and Daniel LeBlanc. That’s where the idea germinated for Blou.
Q Are there lots of kitchen parties in your neighbourhood?
A Not as much as there used to be. One daughter graduated from Humber College [in Toronto] in jazz; my youngest daughter and my son are graduating this year from Moncton University in classical voice and classical guitar. When they come home, we have a little jam.
Q Is it like the house you grew up in?
A Yes, my wife and I sang them lullabies when they were kids. Now we sing and we’ve got four-part harmonies going.
Q Are you still in touch with family in Manitoba?
A My father still calls me and asks me to do a little harmonizing on a song he’s recording. He gives me a list of 10 songs he wants me to do. I tell him I’ll do two.
Q What does music mean to Francophone communities?
A Music is part of the culture, defining who we are. We learn a lot about our-selves through it. It’s a way of getting back together; it reunites family.