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Boréal Tordu: Biography

Boréal Tordu began when fiddler Steve Muise and singer Robert Sylvain discovered a mutual interest in the music of their shared Acadian heritage. While signs of their parents' French culture can still be found in Maine, it was almost lost to their generation, after years of forced assimilation. More than a revival, their music represents a continuation of musical traditions passed down from the Acadians, the Québécois, and the unique French-speaking people of the the Republic of Madawaska and milltowns all over New England.

Steve Muise - fiddle, vocals, accordéon, feet

Steve Muise comes from a long line of Acadian musicians. His father, Paul, grew up in Ile de Surette, Nova Scotia, a small Acadian French community in the area of Old Acadie known as Le Par-en-Bas. Paul emigrated to the States and played guitar for the US army band before starting his own band, and family, including Steve in both. At family reunions Steve learned fiddle tunes from his late Uncle Eloi and forged a connection to his Acadian heritage that is evident in his music and manner. Steve also plays a button-box accordeon handed down from his late grandfather, and has studied with Maine button-box master Norman Gagnon through a traditional arts apprenticeship grant from the Maine Arts Council. Steve earned a degree in music education and performance at Berklee College of Music, and continues to pass on his legacy through a pioneering strings program in the Franklin County school system in western Maine, which earned him the distinction of Maine Music Teacher of the Year in 2007.

Robert Sylvain - vocals, dobro, spoons, horseshoes

Robert Sylvain, Jr. inherited the famous Acadian “joie de vivre” along with a penchant for singing loudly in crowds, from his father, who grew up in Waterville, Maine, where the rosary and off-color jokes were still always en français and tourtière pie was served every Christmas. Robert’s grandmother, known of course only as Memère, was a Thibodeau from the St. John’s River Valley of northern Maine, where many Acadians settled after the great upheaval of 1755. As a testament to her culture, Memère left behind a notebook full of old Acadian French songs which she remembered and transcribed, from which the younger Robert draws material and inspiration. Robert recently began a traditional arts apprenticeship with renowned Acadian guitarist David Surette, funded by the Maine Arts Council. In addition to his collaboration in Boréal Tordu, Robert founded the Cajun band Coulé Douce along with Louisiana’s prodigal son, fiddler Matthew Doucet, and continues to play the music of his southern cousins as well as original and traditional Acadian-Maineiac music.

Pip Walter - guitar, vocals

A well-known multi-instrumentalist from the Portland music scene, Pip has an uncanny ability not only to find that elusive and bone-tickling third vocal harmony, but to sing it en français during rehearsal before ever having heard the lyrics. For this the band bestowed on him the title of honorary Franco-Maineiac.

Andy Buckland - bass, vocals

Andy Buckland grew up in a musical family of professional and teaching musicians going back at least 3 generations. As a youth he fell asleep to the sounds of Bluegrass music eminating from the living room as his mother, Bettie, played Scruggs-style banjo in late-night jams and rehearsals with the likes of Sonny Osborne, Eric Weissberg, Peter Rowan, and other early bluegrass greats, as well as her own band, Bettie and the Moonlighters. After her untimely death, Andy pursued the music of the age, Rock 'n' Roll, with a vengeance, and claims that everything he knows on guitar he learned from the Allman Brothers album, Eat a Peach. In the late '70's and '80's Andy attended Berklee College of Music, and cut his teeth in the Boston Music scene playing such venerable Boston and Cambridge concert clubs as The Channel, The Paradise, Bunratty's, Jack's, Jonathan Swift's and touring New England and Texas with the North Shore folk-rock group, Dougherty & Grace. In 1998, while researching an article on his mother's involvement in Bluegrass music during the early 1960's, Andy became enamored with the "ring of the banjar" and bought a banjo from Bob French, Bettie's great friend and banjo teacher, and taught himself to play the 5-string. After spending a year and a half on banjo with Maine's stalwart bluegrass group, Wilf Clark and the Misty Mountaineers, Andy left performing for seven years to teach general music and chorus to Kindergarten through Sixth graders in the Mt. Blue School District in Farmington, ME. Toward the end of this stint, Andy was hired by Boréal Tordu on electric bass, but quickly decided to switch to upright bass, an instrument he had not previously touched, to maintain the appropriate, traditional sound. Having assumed much of the booking duties for the band, Andy is having the time of his life playing such great music, with such great musicians, and one-of-a-kind Tordudes.

Performer Profile

Maine Acadians have been harboring a rich musical culture underground for generations. Now, there is a new music rising up out of Maine steeped in that tradition with a fresh take on familiar ground. A new generation of Acadian-Maineiacs are showing their joie de vivre. Voilà Boréal Tordu. C'est dingue ça!

Boréal Tordu began when fiddler Steve Muise and singer-songwriter Robert Sylvain discovered a mutual interest in the music of their shared Acadian heritage. Both are sons of native French speaking parents. Both end up finding their roots through their music. More than a revival, this is the reinvention of a culture almost lost to a new generation. The result is a rhythmically unstoppable, lyrically fantastic blend of Acadian traditions with original Americana sensibilities.

Since 2003, Boréal Tordu has played to enthusiastic English and French speaking audiences throughout New England, The Adirondacks in NY, Quebec, and the Canadian Maritimes. They have been featured three times on Maine's 207, NPR, CIFA Radio 104.1 Nova Scotia, WMPG 90.9 Portland, ME, CBC Radio Canada, Lakes Region Radio 94.1 Poultney, VT and Robert Resnick’s, All the Traditions on Vermont Public Radio. Their 2006 release La Bonne Vie was called “an inspiration to the Franco-American community” by Dirty Linen Magazine, and has been heard on the PBS series Now with Bill Moyers. Most recently, Le Centre de la francophonie des Ameriques has selected Boréal Tordu's recording of Steve Muise's song "le Par-en-Bas" to appear on a CD compilation put together by none other than Zachary Richard.

The band features Acadian fiddler/accordionist extraordinaire, Steve Muise, named Maine Music Educator of the Year 2007, and Acadian singer-songwriter and dobro player Rob Sylvain, known for his work in the band Douce with Matthew Doucet of Lafayette, Louisiana. Rounding out the rhythm section is Pip Walter on guitar and backing vocals and Andy Buckland on upright bass. Thrice nominated for the Portland Phoenix reader’s poll award for Best World Music Act, Boréal Tordu continues to innovate and abide in a genre by itself.