Béatrice Bonifassi

Béatrice "Betty" Bonifassi (born c. 1971) is a Canadian vocalist based in Montreal. She has a deep, contralto singing voice, sometimes referred to as "masculine",[1][2] which has been compared to that of Shirley Bassey.[3][4][5] Bonifassi has performed music of many styles in both English and French—from jazz, to traditional music, to blues, to electronica. In 2003 she gained international exposure when she provided the singing voices for the title characters of the animated film The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville).[6] She has collaborated with composer and saxophonist, François D'Amours[7] and has performed and toured with musician Maxime Morin (also known as DJ Champion).[8] Bonifassi appeared as a guest vocalist on Deweare's album High Class Trauma (2006),[9] and she is one half of the electronic music duo Beast.[1][10]

Betty Bonifassi
Bonifassi in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 2009
Bonifassi in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 2009
Background information
Birth nameBéatrice Bonifassi
Bornc. 1971 (age 48–49)
Nice, France
OriginMontreal, Quebec, Canada
GenresJazz, blues, trip hop, electronica
Session musician
Associated actsDJ Champion

Personal lifeEdit

Bonifassi was born in Nice, France to a Yugoslavian mother and a father of Niçois-Italian descent.[7] Raised in a bilingual household, and having studied foreign languages at University, she became interested in other cultures and their traditional music.[11] She has been singing and writing music for two decades.[12]

In 1997, Bonifassi met her now ex-husband,[4] Québécois composer Benoît Charest, while singing Jimi Hendrix covers at a Montreal jazz club.[6][7] Later that year she moved from France to Montreal to join Charest, and has lived in the Canadian city ever since.[7]

Work with DJ ChampionEdit

In the late 1990s, Benoît Charest and Montreal DJ and musician Maxime Morin became co-owners of Ben & Max Studios – a company specializing in jingles and soundtracks. In 2001 Morin sold his share in the company back to Charest in order to continue his own musical career under the pseudonym DJ Champion, however he remained in contact with Bonifassi and Charest: Morin performed bass and percussion on the song "Belleville Rendez-vous", from the 2003 animated film, The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville) and he also performed this song live with Bonifassi and Charest at the 76th Academy Awards ceremony—Morin played percussion on a bicycle during the performance.[13][14]

In 2004 Bonifassi collaborated with Morin once again (performing as "DJ Champion") on his 2004 debut album, Chill'em All. The album included the hit single "No Heaven" which is a soulful and bluesy song set against heavy dance beats and noisy guitar riffs. Inspired by Negro Songs of Protest, Bonifassi sings a plaintive tune reminiscent of the work songs sung by the chain-gangs of the American South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[15]

"I heard Betty singing those blues songs, and she was the girl for that job," said Morin.[15]

With the success of Chill'em All, Bonifassi toured for over two years with "Champion & His G-Strings".[16] In 2008 the pair recorded a version of 1957 Screamin' Jay Hawkins hit "I Put a Spell on You" to be used as the theme song of the Québécois film Truffe.[17][18]

Les Triplettes de BellevilleEdit

Bonifassi and Charest collaborated on the soundtrack for the animated film The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville); the film's main song, "Belleville Rendez-vous", was nominated for an Oscar in 2004 and the pair performed the song, along with Maxime Morin, at the 76th Academy Awards ceremony.[6][8]

Bonifassi stated in a 2004 interview that the experience of performing at the Oscars was "magnifique!"[11]

"It was a magic moment that I shared with my husband; I thought it was brilliant!"[11]

Her work on the Oscar-nominated film "opened doors" for her. After the buzz following her Oscars performance, she got many offers from large record companies in North America and abroad, to record jingles and an album in the same Django/chanson réaliste style;[6][11] Bonifassi turned down the offers for fear of being pigeonholed, but has stated that she does not discount recording in this style in the future.[11]


Bonifassi joined forces with percussionist, record producer, and fellow French expat, Jean-Philippe Goncalves, to form the band Beast. The band released their first album in November 2008.[12]

Beast's sound has been compared with trip hop, only with a bit more aggression.[1][4][16] Bonifassi's vocal stylings also lean more towards rap and spoken-word. Bonifassi is the main songwriter and the music is composed and produced by Goncalves. Canadian singer-songwriter Simon Wilcox also assisted Bonifassi (whose native tongue is French) with Beast's lyrics, which are all performed in English.[3][5]

"Simon really understood my dark side and the sadness of the moment," says Bonifassi. "I really wanted to sing something lyrically rich and powerful."[3]

Goncalves has also stated that the name Beast suits their project very well: "Betty is a real beast," he jokes, "a bête-de-scène."[3]

Beast's debut album was made available on iTunes as of November 4, 2008; its official commercial release was November 18, 2008.[10]

At the end of 2010 Bonifassi and Goncalves announced that they would be taking an indefinite break from the Beast project.[19][20] Although when asked in a June 2011 interview for Voir whether her break from Beast was a final one Bonifassi replied: "Disons que le retour de Beast n'est pas dans mes plans actuels" ("Let's say the return of Beast is not my current plans.")[21]

Goncalves stated in an interview that the split was not due to any sort of quarrel between himself and Bonifassi.[19] Citing lagging album sales, frustration with the record industry, the tiresome effects of touring, and familial commitments (Bonifassi's son was 9 years old at the time of the split), the bandmates said they would be working separately on their own local projects.[19][20][21]

Solo workEdit

During an interview with Danielle Leblanc of Radio-Canada in 2004, she discussed an album she was working on with the composer Francois D'Amour. She described the album as being very "multi-ethnic, with lots of electronic machines" and that she was hoping to find a major record label for its release. On September 24 of that same year, she performed some of these songs during a live solo performance at Montreal's Cabaret Music Hall.[11]

After Bonifassi and Goncalves announced that they would be taking an indefinite hiatus from the Beast project in late 2010,[19][20] Bonifassi began to focus on solo projects including a performance at the Festival Montréal en lumière on Feb 24, 2011—making it her first solo performance since her break with Beast.[22][23] Her performance included renditions of songs by Édith Piaf and Berthe Sylva, as well as a song by the Franco-Monégasque composer Léo Ferré.[23]

Bonifassi performed at the 2011 FrancoFolies festival held in Montreal, first as part of a performance dedicated to Serge Gainsbourg on June 15, then in her own solo performances on the 17th and 18th.[24][25][26][21][27]

In 2014, Bonifassi released a self-titled CD in which she interpreted traditional songs of slaves and prisoners, plus two original cuts, "Working It Down" and "How Does It Feel." In 2016, she followed up with a similar CD entitled Lomax, after ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, who had archived the traditional songs in question (see Slave Songs of the United States.)

In 2018, in collaboration with Robert Lepage, she created SLĀV, a show based on those songs, which launched at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The show caused public protest on the basis of accusations of cultural appropriation[28] and was subsequently canceled by the Festival on Bonifassi's decision and out of concern for public safety.[29]


  1. ^ a b c Bernier, Sophie. ”Beast”, CHYZ FM, Mar 7, 2008 Archived November 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine (French text) Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  2. ^ McMahon, Rob. "Beast’s creepy sound",Metro, Oct 17, 2008 Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  3. ^ a b c d Charpentier, Lorraine. “Bêtes de scène >> Montreal’s Beast pairs a famous singer with a beatsmith to the stars”, Montreal Mirror, Mar 13 – Mar 19, 2008, Vol. 23 No. 38 Archived December 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  4. ^ a b c Leijon, Erik. “Beast Emerge From The Champion Camp”, CHARTattack, Apr 9, 2008 Archived June 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  5. ^ a b MacNeil, Jason. "Collaboration brings out the Beast", Toronto Sun, Jan 29, 2009 Retrieved May 6, 2011
  6. ^ a b c d Cormier, Sylvain. “Ben et Betty voient triple”, Le Devoir, Jan 9, 2004 (French text) Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  7. ^ a b c d Bonifassi’s interview with Monique Giroux of Radio-Canada, Sep 13, 2004 (French text and audio) Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  8. ^ a b “Oscar nominee headlines M For Montreal”, NME news, Oct 31, 2006 Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  9. ^ Bottenberg, Rupert. “Viable geometry, instant poetry >> French transplant Deweare finds momentum in Montreal”, Montreal Mirror, Apr 19–25, 2007, Vol. 22 No. 43 Archived December 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  10. ^ a b Shenker, Jake. “BEAST in concert”, Mondo Magazine, Oct 1, 2008 Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  11. ^ a b c d e f Bonifassi’s interview with Danielle Leblanc of Radio-Canada, Sep 17, 2004 (French text and audio) Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  12. ^ a b Sasseville, Andreanne. "Beast", Urban Male Magazine, 2008 Archived October 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  13. ^ Devlin, Mike, "Laptop loaded, DJ hits the road", Times Colonist, Mar 24, 2007
  14. ^ Benson, Denise, "Champion & His G-Strings", Eye Weekly, Nov 23, 2006
  15. ^ a b Bottenburg, Rupert. “Personal Best >> Montreal’s Champion goes for gold”, Montreal Mirror, Jan 27 – Feb 2.2005 Vol. 20 No. 31 Archived December 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  16. ^ a b Robillard Laveaux, Christian. “Bonifassi… Do”, Voir, Feb 7, 2008 (French text) Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  17. ^ Rhéaume, Julie. "Le film «Truffe» ouvrira le festival Fantasia le 3 juillet", Showbizz.net, Apr 16, 2008 Archived August 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine (French text) Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  18. ^ "Truffe au Festival Fantasia", LeCinema.ca, Apr 16, 2008 Archived April 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine (French text) Retrieved Nov 5, 2008
  19. ^ a b c d Coudé-Lord, Michelle. "Beast prend une pause de plusieurs mois", Canoe.ca, Nov 24, 2010 Archived October 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine (French text) Retrieved May 6, 2011
  20. ^ a b c Léveillée, Antoine. "À la prochaine, si Dieu le veut", Voir, Dec 9, 2010 (French text) Retrieved May 6, 2011
  21. ^ a b c Robillard-Laveaux, Olivier. "Béatrice Bonifassi - Une rencontre réaliste ", Voir, Jun 16, 2011 (French text) Retrieved Sep 12, 2011
  22. ^ Rhéaume, Julie. "Montréal en lumière: Carole Bouquet, coprésidente d'honneur", Branchez-Vous, Dec 1, 2010 (French text) Retrieved May 6, 2011
  23. ^ a b Rezzonico, Philippe. "Le laboratoire de Béatrice Bonifassi", Rue Frontenac, Feb 17, 2011 Archived February 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine (French text) Retrieved May 6, 2011
  24. ^ Rodriguez, Juan. "Deep talent lineup includes nod to past greats", Montreal Gazette, Apr 12, 2011 Retrieved May 6, 2011
  25. ^ Gendron-Martin, Raphaël. "Programmation en Salle Des Francofolies", Canoe.ca, Nov 4, 2011 (French text) Retrieved May 6, 2011
  26. ^ Betty Bonifassi's profile on the FrancoFolies website Archived July 26, 2011, at the Wayback Machine (French text) Retrieved May 6, 2011
  27. ^ Cyr, Jean-François. "Béatrice Bonifassi: charmant délire à la française", Canoe.ca, Sep 9, 2011 (French text) Retrieved Sep 12, 2011
  28. ^ The Globe and Mail: Montreal jazz festival cancels, apologizes for Robert Lepage slave-song show
  29. ^ "Statement by the Festival on the cancellation of performances of SLĀV". nouvelles.equipespectra.ca. Retrieved July 11, 2018.