By B. Simm
CALGARY — St. Boniface, a distinctly French-Canadian borough within Winnipeg, is a well-known breeding ground for some of the most vibrant folk music in the country, which Chic Gamine is most certainly part of. Formed in 2007, a core of female vocalists took their a cappella charm to national and international heights winning a Juno and playing for the Queen.
Alexa Dirks, one of the female leads, although not French herself, is still directly connected to St. Boniface and talks about its big musical heart.
“The Winnipeg musical community in general is very nurturing. Everyone wants to see everyone else succeed, especially in the French community. We just had Festival du Voyaguer [in February], which is the big French music festival in St. Boniface. They call it the world’s best kitchen party. Kitchen parties are big things in the French community, where people come together, make meals and sing. I know that the other girls grew up with that. It’s a big part of their reality. It didn’t matter how good or professional you were. Everyone had a place.”
That equality amongst members extends throughout Chic Gamine. There’s no front person or leader of the group, it’s a shared responsibility that reflects a display of tremendous talent and diversity ranging from soul burnin’ black gospel and American R&B to early ‘60s Brill Building girl group sweetness to gorgeous, sparkling-fresh folk-pop.
“We never set out to be or sound like something in particular,” explains Dirks. “There’s so many inspirations that we draw from, and because we’re such a collective and there’s not one creative voice being heard, it’s all of our voices together that make us what we are.”
Originally Chic Gamine had four female vocalists and was largely propelled by a cappella. Recently that focus has shifted with one singer dropping out and the group bringing in a lot more instrumentation to flush out their style and sound.
“If you were to see us now compared to the show we used to put on, it’s completely different. It’s a full-on rock, pop, soul band with instrumentation on every tune. The vocals are still at the heart of it, and harmonies still drive it, but it’s not just vocally-based anymore.”
Chic Gamine perform at Festival Hall Friday, March 20.AB, Alberta, Chic Gamine, Festival Hall