Music of Canada's Maritimes

From Academic Kids

The Maritime Provinces of Canada are culturally marked by the strong influence of Scottish and Irish settlers. Cape Breton Island is especially well-known for the Scottish influx in the late 18th and early 19th century. Scottish-style fiddle music, sometimes accompanied by the piano, was popular at the time, and these traditions survive today -- in some cases, like Cape Breton Island, Scottish folk traditions are better-maintained than in Scotland itself.

Music of Canada
Maritime Provinces (NL, NS, PE, NB) North (NU, NT, YT)
Prairie Provinces (AB, MB, SK) First Nations (Inuit, Dene, Innu)
Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec
Genres: Celtic - Classical - Folk - Hip hop - Jazz - Pop - Rock
Timeline and Samples
Awards Junos, Hall of Fame, ECMAs, WCMAs, CASBYs, CRMAs, CCMAs, MMVAs
Charts Jam!, Chart, Exclaim!
Festivals CMW, NXNE
Print media CM, CMN, Chart, Exclaim!, The Record, RPM
Music television Much, MMM, CMT
National anthem "O Canada"
Local music
Cape Breton

The last two decades of the 20th century saw a revival in Maritime Celtic music, spurred by a wave of similar roots revivals in Quebec and the rest of Canada, Scotland, Ireland and the United States. Rufus Guinchard, a seventy-two year old fiddler from Daniel's Harbour, became the mentor for a new generation of bands from Newfoundland and the other Maritime provinces. The first major band to appear was Figgy Duff, whose career began in the late 1970s. Figgy Duff played jigs and reels, accompanied by drums and an accordion, and sang songs in both English and French.

By the late 1980s, Cape Breton had produced two minor crossover acts in The Rankins and Barra MacNeils, setting the stage for the mainstream breakthrough of Ashley MacIsaac in the mid-1990s. MacIsaac has incorporated a punk rock spirit into his traditional-style fiddling, and found a new legion of fans.

Other modern performers have continued to add new influences to traditional Maritime music, including hip hop beats and Gaelic lyrics in Mary Jane Lamond's Suas e!, Western classical music in Puirt a Baroque's Bach Meets Cape Breton and Middle Eastern musical influences in Laurel MacDonald's Chroma. Halifax has become a center for music in the Maritime provinces, and also has music arriving from African immigrants, as well as gospel music from a variety of backgrounds. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have seen a roots revival of their own Acadian traditions, dating back to before the French settlers of the area were expelled to Louisiana and became the Cajuns. Barachois is probably the leading band of this revival, while The Gallants and The Arsenaults are two of the most famous Acadien musical families of the East Coast.

Hip hop

Hip hop music from the Maritime Provinces is mostly centered around cities like Halifax. From that city, Universal Soul has become well-known since being nominated for two MuchMusic Video Awards, Classified a producer nominated for a 2004 CUMA, The Goods, composed of Kunga 219 and Gordski, Kaleb Simmonds has achieved a national reputation after a showing in the Top Ten on Canadian Idol, indie fave First Words and Scratch Bastid came in second in the 2004 Canadian DMC finals in Winnipeg and won the 2004 Scribble Jam in Cincinnati.


  • Mathieson, Kenny. "Cape Breton". 2001. In Mathieson, Kenny (Ed.), Celtic music, pp. 96-109. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0-87930-623-8

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