All Montrealers who are lovers of world music, whether of African or Latino styles, or who are fans of percussions in general, are almost certainly familiar with Daniel Bellegarde. For more than 30 years, he has collaborated with every artist, local or foreign, who has been part of the city’s musical scene. His name may be found on at least 40 albums, of every musical genre.
Bellegarde, who is from Haiti, has conducted extensive research and creation in the last few years involving the European influence on Caribbean music. The result is his magnificent album Anba Tonèl, Creole for “beneath the arbour.” For protection from the sun, people danced in tree-shaded areas, hence the album’s name.
His repertory is inspired by the period when slaves working in the cotton fields of Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known during the French regime) learned European instruments and adapted traditional court dances, adding drums.
Bellegarde has dusted off this forgotten heritage and rehabilitated this musical dialogue between cultures and eras, coming back to the contredanse, quadrille and even Congo minuet (which did not necessarily come from Africa) that were danced in European courts in the 17th century.
With his long career, this percussionist has surrounded himself with the top talent from the local scene, people from Haiti, Québec or North Africa : guitarist Toto Laraque, singer Marco Jeanty, Bottine Souriante fiddler David Boulanger, percussionists Diol Kidi and Sacha Daoud, oud and banjo player Hassan El Hady and bass player Erik West-Millette. The result – cheerful, festive and danceable – earned recognition in the Global Music Awards and a nomination in the Canadian Folk Music Awards in 2018. In 2019, the album Anba Tonèl was nominated in the Independent Music Awards in the “traditional world music” category.