M is for music, with M pour Montréal and Mundial Montréal!

November 16, 2015

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One is celebrating its tenth anniversary, the other is turning five. Both share the mission of promoting local artists. The sister events M pour Montréal and Mundial Montréal have quickly established themselves as essential autumn gatherings for industry professionals and the public alike. From November 18 to 21, M pour Montréal showcases the Canadian indie music scene and from November 17 to 20, Mundial focuses on world music.

The founder of M pour Montréal and co-founder of Mundial Montréal, Sébastien Nasra, and Mundial’s artistic director and co-founder, Derek Andrews, spoke to us about these two musical highlights on the fall cultural calendar.

M pour Montréal

M pour Montréal is celebrating its tenth anniversary. What was the festival like back in 2006?

It was much smaller! In our first year, we had a dozen international buyers and we presented seven acts in one evening, including Patrick Watson, Champion, Galaxie, and the Besnard Lakes. Martin Elbourne, the legendary British programmer, challenged me to put together an evening of Montreal’s best alternative and indie music. The idea took off from there, and today we’re a major international industry gathering, and one of the world’s leading conference/showcase events. There have been some hiccups along the way, but it’s all been worthwhile!

What is the festival’s current formula?

We’re still true to the core idea we started with: quality over quantity. In the first three days we present around 30 artists in six showcases, with each artist performing for 20 to 25 minutes. That’s the official selection aimed at professionals. Unlike similar events, we present short concerts where each artist has a chance to be heard, because there’s only one showcase going on at a time, rather than dozens of parallel shows. Then, on the weekend, we switch over to festival mode with concerts aimed at the general public. M pour Montréal also has conferences, workshops and networking opportunities. It’s all about helping our artists break out internationally.

What is M pour Montréal’s specific role in our artists’ foreign success?

Montreal still has a very highly regarded music scene. There are several reasons it’s so vibrant, and I think we’re one of them. M pour Montréal is a well-established event and an important date on the international music industry calendar, both for tastemakers and for up-and-coming artists. Professionals like coming to Montreal to hear the music being made here, and our intimate approach is definitely an attraction. We also have a local focus connected to the French language, and that sparks enthusiasm and curiosity that we need to take advantage of.

M pour Montréal In the Quartier des spectacles

November 18 to 21

Mundial Montréal

How did Mundial Montréal come into being?

Sébastien Nasra and I were in a taxi in New York after a concert by a singer from Montreal, Marco Calliari, who was much appreciated by industry professionals, including some Canadian programmers who had gone to see him that night. We agreed there was a need for an event to showcase Canadian world-music artists. With the M pour Montréal team already in place, Montreal was the logical place for it.

At that moment, did you think there was a large enough pool of artists to make it worthwhile?

I wondered about that at first. Five years ago, the line-up had 22 artists. In each subsequent year we’ve presented 35. At first, I invited artists I’d already seen, and I approached record labels. For the fifth edition, we issued an official call for applications in Canada and internationally. There’s a constant renewal process, and the quality is always high. It’s fantastic!

How is world music evolving?

I’ve been working with the genre since the 1980s. I’ve seen it evolve and have noticed that world music is transforming at the same pace as the world opens up. Today there are more genre fusions and hybrids. We have more exposure to what’s going on in other places, and so we’re erasing our musical borders. That is the essence of Mundial. We may not see these artists achieve massive commercial success, but we’re not really focused on that. Our goal is to help artists keep playing in their style, making their art, and making sure they’re enjoyed by an ever-growing audience.

How would you describe the Mundial audience?

At first the festival was aimed at industry professionals, to expose them to new talent, but very soon we started welcoming the public. Our audience likes musical diversity, has a global vision, is adventurous and likes to see musical boundaries being pushed back.

MUNDIAL MONTRÉAL In the Quartier des Spectacles

November 17 to 20