My father comes back from the sea And at night he talks to me He wants to know if 1 remember All our people who were sent away Do you think their lives will ever be revenged? *
When French-Acadian singer Edith Butler stands in Montreal’s newest downtown shopping complex singing songs like this, her music magically elicits reflections of the sea in the surrounding glass and concrete, and her quaint Acadian French evokes life in the Acadian villages planted along the rocky New Brunswick coast. This fresh breeze not only warms the heartcockles of Quebec housewives watching the taping of a local variety show, it also sums up how Acadian music has recently become a kind of third force on the Que-j bee music scene.
But nothing comes easily in Acadia and Butler, the forerunner of this demi-trend, took almost 12 years to cover the rocky road to success. A schoolteacher—like Anne Murray—in the early days, she spent
years traveling up and down the New Brunswick coast before branching out to the rest of America and abroad. By 1973, she had enough of a reputation to be able to settle in Montreal and start singing the sad story of her people to audiences in the prestigious Place des A rts and the best musical night spots in the city. Butler thinks her songs appeal to the nostalgia in nationalist Quebeckers. “Quebec is becoming urban. In Acadia we have no city we can call our own. In the city assimilation is a source of stress, but in the country we’re close to our roots,” says the statuesque singer, •whose blue eyes and name reflect the Irish mingling with the Acadian blood in her veins.
However, like singer Angèle Arsenault and playwright Antonine Maillet, two other French Maritime women who have helped force Acadia into focus on the Quebec cultural scene, Butler is conscious that being Acadian is not the sole stay of her success. The long, patient hewing of her craft has paid off, not only in Quebec, but internationally as well. Her big break came in 1970, when she was engaged to sing for the Canadian Pavilion in Japan. Since then she has enjoyed growing prestige on the folk circuit, been invited to perform on CTV’S John Allan Cameron Show, made a movie in Louisiana and cut two records with Columbia (Avant d’Etre De'paysée and L’Acadie S’Marie). Now, with plenty of people carrying the Acadian banner, Butler says she no longer feels her lilting folk tunes need to be limited to Acadia. “I used to be very nationalist. I sang because I wanted to prove something. But now I am going to start expressing myself more and my songs will only be Acadian inasmuch as I am.’
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