Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Joss Stone, Beres Hammond, Lady Saw, The Black Keys, Destra… These are just a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of musical artists who passed through Montreal last summer.
It's no secret that I love Montreal. It's a place I am always recommending to family and friends and is one of the best cities to visit in the summertime. Why? Because there are what feels like a million and one festivals taking place, and they're all amazing!
As the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec, Montreal is often referred to as the Paris of North America — full of romantic charm, amazing food and beautiful buildings. What many people don't know is that Montreal is also a music lover's dream. Actually, more like a music lover's paradise! Whether it's hip hop or jazz, reggae or soul, indie or electronic — whatever your musical preference, you'll find it in Montreal.
With so many options to choose from, how does a music lover make the most of everything the city has to offer? These eight music festivals and events are a great place to start:
Montreal International Jazz Festival
Featuring thousands of artists and hundreds of concerts — many of them free! — the world famous Montreal International Jazz Festival is about much more than jazz. Countless genres are covered as people from all over gather in Downtown Montreal to celebrate and listen to great music. Over the last 36 years, the festival has seen many world-renowned artists, including Prince, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Seal and Joss Stone. The number of free outdoor concerts make it the perfect event for the music lover on a budget.
This festival is all about celebrating the music and culture of the African diaspora. What started as a day for people of all cultures to come together to enjoy world music has since turned into almost two weeks of performances, workshops and events honoring Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. The concerts feature artists from more than 35 countries while the workshops cover everything from West African percussions to samba dance lessons. The food and flavors of the diaspora are also represented throughout the festival, making this event a must for both music lovers and foodies.
Osheaga Music and Arts Festival
The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival is the place for up-and-coming talent to play alongside some of the most well-known international artists. Past festivals have seen big names like The Roots, Coldplay and Snoop Dogg perform. Last year, there were approximately 100 bands and artists — including Florence and the Machine, Kendrick Lamar, RL Grime and Milky Chance — who played on multiple stages over the course of three days. Festival goers can buy tickets per day or get a weekend pass.
Piknic Electronik is the place to be for electronic music fans, or for anyone who just wants to hang out with friends while enjoying gorgeous views of Downtown Montreal from Parc Jean-Drapeau. Every Sunday from May to September, Piknic Electronik hosts a lineup of DJs and artists who play from 2 p.m. until well into the night. There's dancing, food trucks, drinks and a chill vibe that makes it a great place for everyone. Piknic Electronik has also expanded since starting in Montreal and can now be found in Barcelona, Melbourne, Dubai, Paris and Cannes.
Montreal International Reggae Festival
Calling all reggae music lovers! Every year, the Montreal International Reggae Festival highlights this popular music genre, as well as all the sounds that have evolved from reggae — dancehall, dubstep, ska, mento and rock steady, to name a few. The festival also showcases calypso and R&B and boasts a yearly lineup of well-known artists such as Shabba Ranks and Cocoa Tea. Over the course of three days, the festival celebrates the Jamaican roots of reggae and uses music to honor its continuous theme of unity against violence.
MEG Montreal Festival
The MEG (Montreal Electronique Groove) Montreal Festival is all about helping people discover the next big thing in hip hop, pop, electronic and rock. Past performers have included Santogold, and MIA, as well as countless other emerging artists. MEG Montreal takes place at various venues throughout the city, but the highlight is the party on the MEG boat, which kicks off at midnight and goes into the early morning. The festival also exposes new talent to the the industry through the Osheaga MEG Pro Panel, where artists have the chance to meet with agents, managers and other members of the music industry.
For anyone who loves soca, dancehall and kompa, Carifiesta is the place to be. This Caribbean carnival is the second largest in Canada and has been going on for more than 40 years. Watch from the sidelines or join in as trucks with music showcasing their respective islands make their way down Saint Catherine Street in Downtown Montreal. Masqueraders representing Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Cuba, Grenada, Bahamas and slew of other Caribbean countries fill the streets as they dance to music and wave their flags in the air.
This not-for-profit indie music festival has been celebrating international and local talent since 2002. With performances taking place mainly in the Plateau neighborhood in Montreal, this five-day event has featured big names like Sheryl Crow and Beck while also giving many rising artists the opportunity to showcase their talent. In addition to musical performances, POP Montreal holds discussions, exhibitions, industry events, film screenings and fashion shows for more than 50,000 participants.
Still want more music festivals? Head here for a complete list of all of Montreal's events and start planning your summer trip to this music festival mecca.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Tourisme Quebec and Tourisme Montreal. The Globe Getter retains full editorial control of what is published. All opinions are my own.