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Local musician compiles book of Acadian songs for ukulele

FORT KENT, Maine — Fort Kent musician Roger Damboise is helping to preserve the Acadian culture through a songbook of Acadian tunes he compiled and arranged for ukulele.

“Chansons Acadian Pour Ukulele,” contains 31 songs, including 17th century French folk songs which Acadian people brought to the United States and Canada as well as songs Damboise’s fellow musician Don Levesque wrote pertaining to local history and culture.

Damboise is director of the local musical group, The River Ukes, and is also a member of the band Les Chanteurs Acadiens, which includes musicians Charles Stewart and Levesque. Both Stewart and Levesque helped Damboise select songs for “Chansons Acadian Pour Ukulele.”

“Roger’s project is one of unity and fun. I’m proud to have contributed,” Levesque said.

Damboise said that when he performs with The River Ukes, a group of musicians who sing and play ukulele at local events such as fundraisers and the local senior center, audience requests include songs in French.

“We were only doing English songs but sometimes people ask for French songs. We really didn’t have any so I decided it would be a good idea to create a ukelele book in French,” Damboise said.

Damboise completed the project with a grant from The Maine Acadian Heritage Council.

Members of Les Chanteurs Acadiens (from left) Don Levesque, Roger Damboise, and Charles Stewart perform songs from their new CD, “Chansons de Par Icitte” at a launch party at the University of Maine at Fort Kent Acadian Archives on Jan. 12, 2018. (Jessica Potila)

“This book is also to preserve Don Levesque’s music. He has written just tons of songs,” Damboise said. “There are 15-20 in (“Chansons Acadian Pour Ukulele”) and they’re popular songs. A lot of these are true stories.”

Among the songs included in the book is the Levesque classic “Ramasser Des Patates.”

“It’s a song about picking potatoes. Don said he wants that song put on his tombstone because everywhere he goes that song is requested,” Damboise chuckled.

Another Levesque song included in “Chansons Acadian Pour Ukulele” is “La Vie D’un Habitant.”

“It’s a song about how farmers went out of business in the 1950s and 1960s,” Damboise said. “That’s a nice song too.”

The book also includes “Fort Kent Soure L’eau,” which translates in English to “Fort Kent Under Water,” and which is about the Fort Kent flood of 2008.  

Among other Levesque songs that the book contains are “I Will Not Speak French in School,” and “Ti-bad.”

Folk songs included in the book include “A La Claire Fontaine,” and “Alouette.”

The beginning of the book contains a list of ukulele chords complete with a diagram for each demonstrating finger placement on the instrument.

“Chansons Acadian Pour Ukulele,” is not for sale, but free copies are available to those who contact Damboise by calling him at (207) 834-3390 or by emailing requests to rogerdamboise@gmail.com.

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