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Canadian music genres identifies musical sounds as belonging to a particular category and type of music that can be distinguished from other types of music made by Canadians.[1] The music of Canada has reflected the multi-cultural influences that have shaped the country. First Nations people, the French, the British, the Americans and many others nationalities have all made unique contributions to the musical genres of Canada.[2][3]


Canadian music genres



the Montréal Symphony Orchestra with conductor Jean-François Rivest August 2008.

In Canada, classical music includes a range of musical styles rooted in the traditions of Western or European classical music that European settlers brought to the country from the 1600s and onwards. As well, it includes musical styles brought by other ethnic communities from the 1800s and onwards, such as Indian classical music (Hindustani and Carnatic music) and Chinese classical music.[4]

Canada has produced a number of respected ensembles, including the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, as well as a number of well-known Baroque orchestras and chamber ensembles, such as the I Musici de Montréal Chamber Orchestra and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir. Major Canadian opera companies such as the Canadian Opera Company have nurtured the talents of Canadian opera singers such as Maureen Forrester, Ben Heppner, and Jon Vickers. Well-known Canadian musicians include pianist Glenn Gould; violinist James Ehnes; flautist Timothy Hutchins; and composers R. Murray Schafer and Harry Somers. Well-known music schools include the Royal Conservatory of Music (Canada) in Toronto and the Schulich School of Music at McGill University in Montréal.


Rush at their 30th Anniversary tour, 2004

Rock describes a wide and diverse variety of music produced by Canadians, starting with American style Rock 'n' Roll in the mid 20th century.[5] Since then Canada has had a considerable impact on the development of the modern popular music called rock.[6] Canada has produced many of the genre's most significant groups and performers, while contributing significantly to the development of the most popular sub-genres, which include pop rock, progressive rock, country rock, folk rock, hard rock, punk rock, heavy metal and indie rock.[7][8][9]

Canada has been a source of rock and roll music for decades, beginning with "The Mocking Bird" originally recorded by The Four Lads in 1952 reaching #23 on the Billboard chart that year.[10] It was re-released four years later reaching #67 on the 1956 chart.[8] The first Canadian with a No. 1 American Billboard hit was 16 year old Paul Anka.[11] In 1957 he went to New York City where he recorded his own composition, "Diana".[12] The song brought him instant stardom selling more than nine million copies in sixteen countries,[13] reaching No. 1 on the U.S.[8] and Canadian charts.[7] Since then, Canada has produced many internationally-popular rock and roll artists.

Perhaps the most notable Canadian rock band is Rush, who currently place fifth behind The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, KISS and Aerosmith for the most consecutive gold and platinum albums by a rock band.[14]. Other notable musicians; The Guess Who,[15] BTO, Nickelback, The Tragically Hip,[16] Sum 41, Alanis Morissette, Céline Dion, Bryan Adams and Loverboy.[6]


The late Canadian Blues man Jeff Healey

The blues is a vocal and instrumental form of music based on the use of the blue notes, often with a repetitive twelve-bar structure, which evolved in the United States in the communities of former African slaves. Canadian blues refers to the blues and blues-related music (e.g. blues-rock, folk blues, etc.) performed by blues bands and performers in Canada. In Canada, there are hundreds of local and regionally-based Canadian blues bands and performers. As well, there is a smaller number of bands or performers that have achieved national or international prominence. These bands and performers are part of a broader Canadian "blues scene" that also includes city or regional blues societies, blues radio shows, and blues festivals.

A small number of Canadian blues bands and artists have achieved national or international prominence by touring across Canada, the US, or Europe, and releasing recordings that have received critical or audience acclaim in Canada and abroad. The performers below are listed according to the decade during which they first achieved national or international prominence:

Hip hop

The Canadian hip hop scene was first established in the 1980s. Through a variety of factors, however, it developed much more slowly than Canada's popular rock music scene, and apart from a short-lived burst of mainstream popularity from 1989 to 1991, it remained largely an underground phenomenon until the early 2000s.

Canada had hip hop artists right from the early days of the scene — the first known Canadian rap single, Singing Fools' "The Bum Rap", was released in 1982.[17] For the most part, however, the infrastructure simply wasn't there to get most artists' music to the record-buying public. Even Toronto– Canada's largest city and one of its most multicultural– had difficulty getting an urban music station on the radio airwaves until 2000. As a result, if a Canadian hip-hop artist could get signed, it was very difficult for them to get exposure — even if their music videos were played on MuchMusic, many artists simply couldn't get their records into stores or played on the radio.

As a result, through much of the 1990s, Canadian hip hop experienced a slowdown without any significant artists bursting into the scene. However, beginning in 1998, a sequence of events spurred by the anthemic collaborative single "Northern Touch" finally brought hip hop back into the mainstream of Canadian music.[18][19]

Allmusic has stated that Canadian hip hop is the "best-kept secret in hip-hop."[20]


Jazz is a genre of African American music present in Canada since at least the 1910s. In 1919-1920 in Vancouver, Jelly Roll Morton, a legendary New Orleans pianist, played with his band. During this period, Canadian groups such as the Winnipeg Jazz Babies and the Westmount Jazz Band of Montreal also found regional acclaim.

During the swing boom of the late 1930s and early 1940s, Canada produced such notable bandleaders as Ellis McLintock, Bert Niosi, Jimmy Davidson, Mart Kenney, Stan Wood, and Sandy De Santis. In the 1940s, Bert Niosi and Oscar Peterson became widely known. Peterson became internationally acclaimed, and is a widely-respected Canadian jazz musician.

During the 1970s and 80s, the jazz fusion band Uzeb was a well known domestic and international jazz group. Since 2000, a brand new list of Canadian jazz artists have rose to prominence including Diana Krall, Michael Buble, Matt Dusk, and Molly Johnson - often attracting international acclaim and success. Other highly notable Canadian Jazz artists: Ed Bickert, Lenny Breau (born in Maine but lived in Canada), Gil Evans


Country music evolved out of the diverse musical practices of the Appalachian region of the United States. Appalachian folk music was largely Scottish and Irish, with an important influence also being the African American country blues. Parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Maritime provinces shared a tradition with the Appalachian region, and country music became popular quite quickly in these places. Fiddlers like George Wade and Don Messer helped to popularize the style, beginning in the late 1920s. Wade was not signed until the 1930s, when Victor Record's, inspired by the success of Wilf Carter the year before, signed him, Hank Snow and Hank LaRivière.

Canadian country as developed by Otto Wilke, Carter, Snow and Earl Heywood, used a less nasal and more distinctly pronounced vocal style than American music, and stuck with more traditional ballads and narratives while American country began to use more songs about bars and lovers' quarrels. This style of country music became very popular in Canada over the next couple of decades. Later popular Canadian country stars range from Stompin' Tom Connors to Shania Twain.

Radio and television stations in Canada which play country music, however, are often more flexible in how they define the genre than their counterparts in the United States. Canadian country stations frequently play artists more commonly associated with folk music, such as Bruce Cockburn, Leahy and The Rankin Family.


Joni Mitchell

Some of Canada's most influential folk artists also emerged in this era, notably Stan Rogers, Ferron, Wade Hemsworth, Murray McLauchlan, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

In the 1970s, chansonniers grew steadily less popular with the encroachment of popular rock bands and other artists. Some performers did emerge, however, including Jacques Michel, Claude Dubois, and Robert Charlebois.Modern folk music is very much present in Canada, being home to successful folk artists such as Great Lake Swimmers, City & Colour, Basia Bulat, and Old Man Luedecke.

Saskatchewan-native Joni Mitchell, one of the most influential folk and popular music singer songwriters of the 20th century.[21] Michael mitchell (singer) is a well-known Canadian children's folk singer, having performed at 4,000 elementary schools and communities.

Toronto goth scene

The Toronto goth scene, the cultural locus of the goth subculture in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the associated music and fashion scene, has distinct origins from goth scenes of other goth subcultural centres, such as the UK or Germany. Originally known as the "freaks", the term "goth" appeared only after 1988, when it was applied to the pre-existent subculture. Distinctive features included internationally recognized gothic and vampiric fashion store 'Siren'[22], a goth-industrial bar named 'Sanctuary: The Vampire Sex Bar'[23] , and Forever Knight, a television series about an 800-year-old vampire living in Toronto. In Toronto, the goths did not seek to reject mainstream status, and achieved partial acceptance throughout the mid to late '90s, and in 1998 Toronto was reported to have a higher concentration of goths than any other city in the world.[24] The goth subculture faced public suspicion and the local goth scene declined[25] after allegedly goth-related acts of violence, the Columbine High School massacre[26] in particular.

Heavy metal

Going back to the late 1960s, Canada has produced metal bands that have and continue to influence metal bands to this day. In 1964, Toronto-based band The Sparrows was formed. This band later changed their name to Steppenwolf and featured Canadians John Kay, Goldy McJohn and Jerry Edmonton. Steppenwolf's 1968 single Born to be Wild was the first use of the words 'heavy metal' in a song's lyrics. In 1970, Woodstock, Ontario based Warpig released their Proto Metal debut which although never reaching mainstream success like fellow heavy metal bands Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, has become a cult favorite within the Doom metal scene. In 1974, Toronto-based progressive hard rock trio Rush released their first album and has become Canada's most internationally successful hard rock export. Along with Rush was Triumph who enjoyed a successful string of albums in the late 1970s and early to mid 1980's and were an impressive live band who was known for elaborate stage lighting and pyrotechnics.

Some of Canada's most successful bands in the 1980s were metal bands that opted to change their style from the early 80s roots metal sound to the growing glam metal style that became mainstream in the late 80's. Bands like Helix, Kick Axe, Brighton Rock, Killer Dwarfs, and Slik Toxik saw growing popularity in the mid 80's thanks in part to Much Music and MTV playing their videos in regular rotation.

Canada's death metal scene has produced artists most of whom are based out of Quebec. Bands like Kataklysm, Cryptopsy, Quo Vadis, Augury, Martyr, and Neuraxis have a strong underground following and are signed to major independent metal labels. In the 2000s, Canadian extreme metal has been put on the map by Vancouver band Strapping Young Lad (featuring Devin Townsend), 3 Inches of Blood and Regina band Into Eternity. James Labrie lead singer of Dream Theater is Canadian born. Canada has a very strong underground metal scene in cities such as Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec City.


Chansonniers were French Canadian singer-songwriters from the 1950s and 60s. They sang simple, poetic songs with a social conscience. The first chansonniers were La Bolduc, Raymond Lévesque and Félix Leclerc. It was not until the 60s, however, that chansonniers became such a major part of the Québécois music scene. This was largely due to the formation of Les Bozos in 1959. Les Bozos was an informal collective of chansonniers, including Lévesque, Jean-Pierre Ferland, Claude Léveillée, Clémence Desrochers, Talon Starsdawn, and Jacques Blanchet.

With the first stars popularizing the chansonnier format, a new generation of popular singers emerged in the 1960s. These included Gilles Vigneault, Pierre Létourneau, Pierre Calvé, Hervé Brousseau, Georges Dor, Monique Miville-Deschênes, and Claude Gauthier. The boîtes à chansons, a kind of performance place for chansonniers (akin to coffee houses in the United States), also appeared during the 1960s, spread across Quebec.

The Chansonnier tradition has continued with artists who have been carrying on since the 1970s to the present. One good example is Diane Dufresne who also is prolific in the area of cabaret or theatre-rock.

Electronic music

Gaining speed in the west of Canada, the electronic music scene grows rapidly within most major centres.

Internationally-renowned electronic artists from Canada include pioneering Winnipeg-based breakcore artist Aaron Funk a.k.a. Venetian Snares, minimal techno artist and DJ Richie Hawtin, dub techno producer Deadbeat, lo-fi electronica band Holy Fuck, whose music has been featured in commercials for General Motors, Montreal-based electrofunk duo Chromeo, Toronto-formed Crystal Castles, whose music is considered electro-punk, the duo's front woman Alice Glass topped the 2008 cool list for a British music magazine NME, indie-electronica group Junior Boys & quirky sound-artist Vitaminsforyou. Albertan electronica musicians include Mark Templeton, Escapist Opportunities, and organizers Electronic Music Calgary, creating venues throughout the province, though mainly in Calgary.


Canadian artists have had a significant impact on industrial music worldwide, and Canada is considered by many to be one of the birthplaces of modern industrial.

The first wave of Canadian industrial was born out of the Juno Award winning New Wave act, Images in Vogue. From this Vancouver-based band, guitarist Don Gordon went on to found Numb, and percussionist Kevin Crompton left in 1985 to focus on his side project, Skinny Puppy. Quickly signed to Nettwerk Records, Skinny Puppy is still an influential industrial act. Skinny Puppy has spawned numerous sideprojects over the years, including Hilt, Download, The Tear Garden, Doubting Thomas, ohGr, Cyberaktif, and others.

Out of this environment also came Front Line Assembly, formed by former Skinny Puppy member Bill Leeb in 1986. Joined by Rhys Fulber (and later by Chris Peterson), FLA became one of the most commercially successful electro-industrial acts of the 90s, and spawned a host of sideprojects, including (but not limited to) Conjure One, Pro-Tech, Synæsthesia, Will, Intermix, Noise Unit, Equinox, Cyberaktif, Mutual Mortuary, and the vastly successful Delerium, which began life as an ambient project.

And on the distaff side, also from Vancouver's early electronic/industrial scene; Madelaine Morris, the fab front women in Mark Jowett's early electronica project, Moeve. And Myra Davies, who built her reputation in the Euro Underground, notably in collaborations with Berliner Gudrun Gut, but entered the scene through her association in Vancouver with Skinny Puppy. The Pups connected her to Neubauten who invited her to Berlin where she met Gudrun Gut (ex Neubauten, Malaria, and many other projects). In 1991, Davies and Gut formed MIASMA; a wide ranging project with a fantasy 'dark cabaret' vibre. Davies and Gutare still working together with Davies recording under her own name on Gut's label and Gut producing and programming. The latest Myra Davies cd (Cities and Girls) includes a track with Alexander Hacke(Neubauten)and one with Beate Bartel (orig Neubuaten, Malaria, Liaisons Dangereuse).

Toronto-based band The Birthday Massacre has established a very faithful fanbase spreading across the globe.

Hardcore punk

Bands from across Canada contribute to the hardcore punk and hardcore scenes. D.O.A. of Vancouver founded hardcore punk along with their American counterparts. Comeback Kid of Winnipeg is a leader in the current Hardcore scene and many bands from Distort Entertainment have been gaining prominence through extensive touring and Much Music video rotation, include Alexisonfire and Cancer Bats. Others include Daggermouth, Dayglo Abortions, The 3tards, Propagandhi, Silverstein, Fucked Up, Subhumans and SNFU.

See also

External links


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of Canadian rock, pop and folk music by Rick Jackson, (Kingston, ON): Quarry Press, (1994) (ISBN 15-50821-075)
  2. ^ Heart of Gold: 30 years of Canadian pop music by Martin Melhuish, (Toronto ON: CBC Enterprises, (1983) (ISBN 08-87841-125)
  3. ^ Oh What a Feeling: a vital history of Canadian music by Martin Melhuish, (Kingston, ON: Quarry Press, 1996) (ISBN 15-50821-644)
  4. ^ Foran, Charles. "No More Solitudes". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 2: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific, pp 350–361. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. (ISBN 1-85828-636-0)
  5. ^ Top Pop Records 1940-1955 Author Joel Whitburn Publisher Record Research Billboard year 1973 p. 211. (ISBN 089820092)
  6. ^ a b Heart of Gold: 30 years of Canadian pop music by Martin Melhuish, (Toronto: CBC Enterprises, 1983) (ISBN 0887841125)
  7. ^ a b Ron Hall (1990). The CHUM chart book from 1957 to 1986. Stardust Productions (Toronto, Ont.)Canada. ISBN 09-20325-157. 
  8. ^ a b c Adam White & Fred Bronson (1988). The Billboard Book of Hits. Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-8285-7. 
  9. ^ "RPM (magazine)collection at Library and Archives Canada". RPM Awards. Requires running a searches for Artist or year
  10. ^ Top Pop Records 1940-1955 Author Joel Whitburn Publisher Record Research Billboard year 1973 p. 211. ISBN 08-9820-092
  11. ^ "16 Year Old Canadian Artist Has a U.S. Number One Single in 1957 with "DIANA"". Classic Bands Canada. Retrieved November 26, 2006. 
  12. ^ "The Youngest Artists To Have A U.S. Number One Single Between 1950 and 2000". Retrieved November 26, 2006. 
  13. ^ Paul Anka reportedly has sold more than nine million copies., History of Rock and Roll. (URL accessed May 14, 2006)
  14. ^ DRUM! Magazine Awards Big Drum Thump Accessed July 2, 2008
  15. ^ "The Order of Canada member list". Retrieved 2006-11-26. 
  16. ^ "GRAMMY Award WINNERS". Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  17. ^ Singing Fools at Jam!'s Pop Music Encyclopedia.
  18. ^ CRTC Decision 90-993
  19. ^ CRTC Public Notice 2000-144
  20. ^ Kardinal Offishall > Biography, Allmusic, October 21, 2008
  21. ^ The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs by Edith Fowke. Markham, ON: Penguin, 1986. (ISBN 0-14-070842-1)
  22. ^ J. Gordon Melton (December 1998). The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 978-1578590711. 
  23. ^ Stephen Andrew Lee (Lance Goth) (1997). Tales From Sanctuary: The Vampire Sex Bar. Toronto, Spitfire.  Listed by "1997 Novels, Collections and Anthologies". Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. 1997. Retrieved 2007-03-31. 
  24. ^ Johnson Cummins (1998-10-22). "Like a bat out of hell >> Masochistic Religion's exile from goth-ville". Montreal Mirror. Retrieved 2007-03-31. "...Mitch Kroll and his merry band of gothsters Masochistic Religion." 
  25. ^ Aparita Bhandari "Aging Goths seek out fresh blood" - cached here Toronto Star June 21, 2002
  26. ^ Leah Rumack (1999-04-29–1999-05-05). "Goth shock". NOW magazine. Retrieved 2007-03-31. 


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