Musical Space: O Canada

Jun 18, 2019

Canada Day is July 1, so I figured I’d send my browser to points north to find out what’s going on up there musically. 

We share a 5,000-mile border with Canada, and their culture is similar to ours, except that it’s colder, they’re bilingual, they pay higher taxes and get free health care, and so I wanted to compare their music scene to ours.

I’m surprised at how much of the rock canon comes from Canada: Neil Young, The Band, The Guess Who, Steppenwolf, Joni Mitchell, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The Tragically Hip, Alanis Morissette, Leonard Cohen. In country there are people like Hank Snow and Shania Twain. Between Glenn Gould and Oscar Peterson they have classical and jazz covered. And there are newer acts at the forefront of their genres: Drake, Grimes, Deadmau5, and Arcade Fire.

O Canada - Blackwell, a country band from Canada

The biggest difference I see is the amount of state support the arts get in the Great White North. The Canada Arts Council spends many times more per capita than our National Endowment For The Arts. Higher education is much less expensive. Most importantly, radio and television are required to devote a certain percentage of time to Canadian content. Some might call this protectionism, but it’s undeniable that aspiring Canadian artists get a boost.

Sorry if this information results in a trade war.


Listening list:
Tanya Tagaq, “Uja,” Animism (2014). A Canadian Inuk throat singer from Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq), Nunavut, Canada, on the south coast of Victoria Island. This album won the Polaris prize in 2014.



Paul Reddick and the Sidemen, “I’m a Criminal,” Rattlebag (2001). This tune was used in a Coca Cola commercial.



The Beaches, “Late Show,” Late Show (2017)


Partner, “Play the Field,” In Search of Lost Time (2017). Won the SOCAN songwriting prize for this sports/love double entendre


Cadence Weapon, “Oliver Square” Breaking Kayfabe (2006). The first song on the debut album that earned a Polaris Prize nomination. 


BadBadNotGood, “Lavender,” IV (2016). Young Canadian jazz players who grew up listening to hip hop. This cut features Canadian electronic musician Kaytranda. There’s a very cool remix with Snoop Dogg rapping. Nominated for a Polaris prize in 2017.