20 years of Disques 7ième Ciel at the Bell Centre: 4 hours of celebration!

by Jacob Langlois-Pelletier

Announced several months ago, Disques 7ième Ciel’s 20th-anniversary concert was eagerly awaited by fans of hip-hop and rap keb. Founded by Steve Jolin aka Anodajay in 2003, the label has played an important role in the development of the musical genre in Quebec. Its roster includes FouKi, Koriass, Souldia, Manu Militari, Imposs and a host of other local artists. To celebrate, Jolin and his band put on a (very) long showcase-like performance, lasting over four hours, at the Bell Centre on Friday evening.

What better way to kick off the show than with owner Anodajay. Cheered by the crowd on arrival, he got the ball rolling with two of his own songs, including Le Beat à Ti-Bi, his famous song with Raôul Duguay. On stage, the Rouynorand native was alone, accompanied by a DJ and archive footage and video clips scrolling behind him. The rest of the evening unfolded with this minimalist approach and the sporadic appearance of a few musicians and backing singers.

After the opening set by Disques 7ième Ciel’s standard-bearer, veteran rappers Dramatik, Manu Militari and Koriass performed a series of their old songs, much to the delight of the more nostalgic fans in the room.

The show lasted two hours, most of the label’s artists having taken to the stage with two or three solo tracks. Souldia’s stage appearances were the loudest in the Bell Centre; the Prince of Limoilou has been cultivating an incredible connection with Quebec audiences for several years now. In addition to the headliners, Zach Zoya, the LaF collective and the Brown Family stood out from the crowd. Around 10 pm, an intermission is announced…

Twenty minutes later, Anodajay is back on stage and the show is back in full swing. In this second set, most of the artists return, and Koriass and Souldia are given plenty of space. As the evening wore on, the crowd slowly began to lose steam. Luckily, the various artists had reserved their most popular songs for the second half.

Around me, several rap fans quietly left their seats and headed for the exit. To describe the atmosphere, at times it felt like a bar where people were chatting and partying, with music playing in the background. The length and rather random sequencing of the various performances had a lot to do with this. You wanted rap, you got it!

Let’s focus on the positive. Over the course of four hours of rap, fans were treated to several highlights, including an excellent a cappella rap by Koriass, the presence of the great Diane Tell for a rendition of Jamais su with Anodajay, a remixed version of her famous song Souvent longtemps énormément, and an excellent cypher with most of the 7ième Ciel artisans to close this historic evening. The evening would have benefited even more from the creativity of this last segment.

Quebec hip-hop is doing well, very well indeed, and this great celebration is the umpteenth proof of that. Without Steve Jolin and Disques 7ième Ciel, we’d be light years ahead of where we are now as far as rap keb is concerned. It’s hard to say we’d have expected more from this show when we’ve been served up over 240 minutes of music, although everything could have been more concise and punchy.

But then again, it’s quite a challenge to pay tribute to so many years of Keb rap history in a single evening, 7ième Ciel style and the rendering did it justice nonetheless.

Souldia photo credit: @Play.fille Sarah-Maude Lessard

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