Vishtèn is a Canadian roots music band very dear to my heart. They're one of the few groups out there today playing Acadian music, and they're absolutely the best. Acadian music is the ancestor of today's Cajun music, and is centered in the French-Canadian regions of Eastern Canadian provinces New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. There are very few traditional players left of this music, especially the fiddling, and, as a matter of fact, Canadian "Down East" fiddling (à la Don Messer) and bluegrass has done much to supplant the original Acadian traditions in E. Canada. There's a particular flavor to the bowing of Acadian fiddling that's absolutely addictive to me. There's a lot more syncopation than in other forms of French-Canadian fiddling, like Québécois fiddle for example, and the tunes are more rough-hewn, and often shorter. I use Acadian fiddle and fiddling techniques to play for contra dancing, and these tunes are like crack to dancers! They go berserk on the floor with the heavy rhythms and syncopation of the tunes. The songs of the Acadians are better known, since so many Acadians have emigrated from E. Canada, first with the Great Deportations of the 18th century, and even up to the present day with Acadians moving in New England. Acadians love call and response songs, and they love old medieval ballads, and actually a lot of groups in Québec today use Acadian songs in their repertoire, especially Le Vent du Nord.

Vishtèn. Mosaïk.
2012. self-released.


On Mosaïk, Vishtèn showcase their dexterity with traditional and original tunes and songs. Sisters Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc have such lovely singing that the songs on this album really stand out. They're also widely knowledgeable about Acadian music and the traditional songs here are drawn from archival sources, friends and colleagues, as well as the Cajun tradition. This is great to see, and I know that Vishtèn have successfully toured in Louisiana. Even though Cajun music today doesn't bear a lot of resemblance to Acadian music today, those cultural links are still powerful, and you can find some amazing old Acadian songs in the early recordings of Cajun musicians. The songs are beautifully arranged, another hallmark of the band. The tunes are mostly original, but are of course based on Acadian traditions from the West of Prince Edward Island, where Emmanuelle and Pastelle come from, and the Magdalen Islands where their fiddler comes from. As a fiddler myself, I a huge fan of Vishtèn's fiddler Pascal Miousse. He's heir to the spectacular and wild fiddling traditions of the Magdalens, a small island chain off the coast of Québec. These islands are one of the very last strongholds of traditional Acadian culture and are a hugely ignored treasure trove of amazing music. I spent a bunch of time last year with Bertrand Deraspe from the Magdalens and his fiddling is a wonderland of lost rhythms and old old tunes. Pascal's inherited much of this music from island fiddlers and does us all a great service in taking this music far from the isolated islands where it still lives. Special mention here for Pastelle's accordion and Emmanuelle's flute playing. As a trio, Vishtèn can rock both song and tunes with aplomb.

This album is a very highly recommended foray into the rich Acadian traditions of Eastern Canada and window to a vanishing world that highly deserves to be appreciated by anyone interested in Celtic music or N. American traditions.
 

Vishtèn: La fougue des fées

 

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