Jamming and dancing to the Tam Tams on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Montreal’s Mont Royal Park was a perfect finish to my solo travels in Montreal and Ottawa. What are these Tam Tams you ask? Tam Tams is the name given to the weekly summertime drumming festival that takes place on the east slope of Mont Royal Park aka “the mountain” in Montreal. Tam Tams refers to the sound of the drumming.
People of varying backgrounds gather near the George-Étienne Cartier Monument in Mont Royal Park to groove to the music of the informal drum circle that begins around 1 pm every Sunday during the warm weather months. The tradition began in the seventies and at times there are several thousand people in attendance.
Jamming to the Tam Tams is a ritual for some Montrealers and an extraordinary experience to any tourist visiting the beautiful city of Montreal. I have been to Montreal three times and finally I attended the Tam Tam festival. I will never miss another one when I am in town!
I was enjoying what I thought to be my last night in Montreal at the Ritz-Carlton on Sherbrooke Street. I ordered scones and tea from room service in the afternoon whilst I reviewed and edited photos on my laptop. I had just returned to Montreal after spending a wonderful five days in Ottawa and wanted to chill and relax for my final vacation day. Tam Tams made for a perfect event to do just that!
During this particular Tam Tam fest there was a techno music jam fest and two drum circles. The bigger drum circle located near the George-Etienne Cartier Monument featured a large crowd with lively rambunctious beats and rhythmic dancing. The second drum circle around 50 meters away played more of a South American vibe and a smaller crowd.
I spent my time between both drum circles – dancing and grooving the whole time. The jean jacket I brought with me to sit on while listening to the music was rendered unnecessary and remained folded over my handbag. I noticed a variety of musical instruments being played besides the assortment of drums – trumpet, flute, guitar, and bagpipes – yes bagpipes!
I was struck by the number of people that could just sit still while listening to the music! I asked a few people next to me how they could stand still and received a blank stare in response. Maybe they were too stoned to dance? I don’t know. There was a lot of marijuana in the air. Police tend to let the crowd do its own thing without intervening, provided people keep their pot and beer (cans only please) to themselves. The atmosphere is laid back and chill. Everyone gets along and everyone does their own thing without any judgement being passed.
At 9 pm I returned to the Ritz-Carlton and looking down at my feet now covered in dust I wondered if many of the Ritz-Carlton guests made the trek up Mont Royal to enjoy the Tam Tams. I hope so because they would be missing out if they skipped the Tam Tams.
Tell me about music events in your city or anyplace you have visited – what’s your favorite?
How to get to Tam-Tams music jam in Mont Royal Montreal:
Address: 1260 Remembrance Road, Montréal
Tam Tams drum jam session is held from May – October on Sundays around the monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier (the angel statue).
Phone Number: (park admin.) +1-(514)-843-8240
Hours: daily, 6AM – midnight
Admission Cost (as of July 2015): FREE
Tours: Guided hikes and walks available. Check les amis de la montagne for more info.
How to get to Tam-Tams: Metro: Mont-Royal (orange line). Bus #11 runs to the summit of the park.