The music of Quebec folk trio Bon Débarras knows no borders. The group employs a variety of instruments including guitar, banjo, mandolin, accordion, washboard and harmonicas along with foot and body percussion, the trio’s music is a tribute rooted in French-speaking North America.
The strength of the band undoubtedly lies in its membership, each of whom are involved in artistic realms including music, dance and poetry.
Bon Débarras’s Dominic Desrochers grew up having been surrounded by music, thanks to his father and extended family. Dominic first ventured into folklore dancing before eventually finding his way to percussive dance and music, a path he follows today.
Like his bandmate, Jean-Francois Dumas grew up in a family of musicians and singers. His talent bloomed at an early age thanks to the songs and melodies from decades past. He spent time travelling throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe, soaking in the sounds and traditions of the world, a path that would eventually lead him to Bon Débarras.
“The roots of Bon Débarras go back almost 20 years when Jean-Francois and I began playing music for fun, often jamming in the kitchens at various get togethers,” Dominic says. “It was in 2005 that we left the kitchen and decided to do something more seriously.”
Group bassist Cédric Dind-Lavoie is the newest member of Bon Débarras, stepping into the role in 2013 when the band’s previous bassist decided that life on the road wasn’t necessarily conducive to raising a young family.
Cedric brings a wealth of experience to Bon Débarras, having performed with Nathalie Cora, Dobacaracol and Juan Sebastian Larobina, and an affinity for the music of West African cultures, which led him to perform with Alpha Thiam, Kabakuwo and Bolo Kan.
“A lot of the international influence that can be heard in our music could be attributed to the fact that we call Montreal home,” Dominic says. “The city is a melting pot of all styles of music, which is ultimately reflected in the sound of the band. Cedric is responsible for bringing the world rhythms to our music while I hail from French-Canadian culture and Jean-Francois brings more of a jazz-influence to the group. It is those three distinct influences that gives us a unique sound when we play together.”
To date, Bon Débarras has released two studio efforts. They released their self-titled effort in 2009, followed by Errance in 2013.
Desrochers says that the group went into the making of their sophomore record by putting more of an emphasis on the creation of original material.
“Our debut record was the result of 10 years of research and collecting songs,” he says. “It was skewed more towards our arrangements of traditional songs that we knew and loved. We had some original material prepared for our debut record but were unsure about how those songs would be received alongside the traditional songs we were performing.
“Once we saw those originals would be accepted alongside the traditional material, it really pushed us to write more. And so accordingly, with Errance, we wanted to focus more on original material and writing our own songs.”
He admits that finding acceptance for the music of Bon Débarras within and beyond North America’s borders has been a wonderful journey thus far. The group recently returned from a European tour, during which Dominic says they performed before many full houses. Acceptance of the group has also been common in North America, even in areas where French is a foreign language.
“It has been especially fascinating to see the reaction that we have been afforded from audiences all over the world,” Dominic says. “We have been very fortunate that audiences come to our shows curious about the band as well as the music that we make. There is a wonderful exchange of energy that takes place between the band and the audience every night that we are on stage.”
For all of their world travels, however, Dominic expresses genuine excitement over the first time that Bon Débarras will bring their music to Metro Moncton, one of five shows they will play in the region.
“We are a group inspired by French culture. To have the opportunity to bring our music to the Maritimes, where the French and English populations co-exist is something that we are looking forward to experiencing.”
What: Bon Débarras
When: Wednesday, Jan. 14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Empress Theatre, Robinson Court, Downtown Moncton
Tickets are $23. Advance tickets are available for purchase at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca