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Sample Track 1:
"Tobie Lapierre" from MoSAÏK
Sample Track 2:
"La Fougue Des Feès" from MoSAÏK
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Vishtèn, Mosaïk, US Summer Tour Outside of the Trad Box: Vishtèn Leads a Moog-Powered, Highly Original Acadian Musical Renaissance

There’s an Acadian revival going on. Once neglected, the Francophone communities of Canada’s eastern provinces are coming into their own, as their language, music, and culture find wider recognition and audiences around the world. Vishtèn, the dynamic, technically stunning three multi-instrumentalists from Prince Edward Island and Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, are right there at the forefront, creating new tunes and reinvigorating old sounds.

The close-knit trio has pushed beyond skillful renditions of traditional tunes and ballads to compose original pieces. Their latest studio album, Mosaïk, reflects this departure from the usual trad band ways. The innovative recording combines imaginative arrangements of traditional French-Acadian songs with dazzling original instrumentals that draw from an eclectic variety of North American roots music.

Mosaïk comes after a four-year recording hiatus during which the band developed a new core sound. The resulting sophisticated sonic signature combines tight sibling harmonies, layered foot percussion, Moog and virtuoso acoustic instrumentation to create an expansive sound that would be difficult, in its sheer complexity, for a quintet to reproduce.

Vishtèn easily move this rich, unexpected sound to the stage. They translate the high spirits and musical flair they have honed over a lifetime of music making and decades of international performances into an instantly engaging live show, as audiences will see this June and July when the group tours the Eastern and Midwestern US.

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“In all aspects of culture, we Acadians have felt a real revival, a renaissance more intensely the past decade,” notes Vishtèn’s whistle player, pianist, percussionist, and vocalist Emmanuelle LeBlanc. “There’s a big buzz for Acadians across the Francophone areas of Canada and in many countries around the world. It’s exciting, and we’re one of the only bands touring with this traditional music.”

Though Acadians have their own way of speaking French and their own way of playing ancient ballads and Scottish- and Irish-inspired dance tunes, their culture languished in semi-obscurity, kept alive in small pockets and scattered communities. Yet this music was never static, and in the hands (and passionately tapping feet) of virtuosic musicians like LeBlanc, her accordionist/dancer/singer twin sister Pastelle LeBlanc, and fiddler, mandolin player, and guitarist Pascal Miousse, it has become wonderfully fresh.

This gentle urge to innovate has long shaped the Francophone music of Canada’s East, as traditional musicians picked up and transformed sounds from other nearby cultures and regions. On remote islands like the Magdalens where Miousse grew up, people heard Cape Breton traditional music on the radio, but found their own, more sea-worthy sway to that region’s driving pulse (the opening tune of “Tempête des Glaces”).

Interchange between different areas and communities sharing sonic elements or rhythmic sensibilities is nothing novel, yet Vishtèn take this dynamic to a new international level, adding electric guitar and Moog to expand and enrich their sound, for example, under the guidance of cult Quebecois producer, Éloi Painchaud.

The ensemble moved older music-shaping forces one step forward, exploring new approaches to their Acadian heritage. The trio experimented with new, untried forms, as they do on “L’'Âme à P'tit Jean,” where they reframed the chord progression to a traditional melody and added an electric guitar, as well as crafted a new chorus with original lyrics. Much of this exploration happened in the studio.

The process had its rewards. “Sometimes, a song isn’t quite ready and you just don’t know if it’s ready or not until you’re in the studio,” muses Pastelle. “Most of the material on Mosaïk was ready, but there were a few songs that we had never played live. We got to try out new things, new ideas in the studio, and be open to going outside our box.” This box never quelled the band’s overflowing enthusiasm, yet whether taking risks or keeping to the good old ways, Vishtèn show that Acadian culture is alive and well.