The annual French music festival or Fete de la musique as it is know in France is a remarkable event which brings the whole country alive with a vast array of musical performances for a whole day each year.
The driving force behind the festival de music was Maurice Fleuret (put forward by minister Jack Lang) who as director of music back in 1981 took up the idea of ”music everyway and concerts nowhere”. Understanding that five million young French people either played an instrument or sang, in other words one in two, Fleuret essentially proposed to let them realize their dreams and take to the streets performing whatever they wanted to perform.
The first event was launched on the summer solstice of 21st June 1982 under the slogan of “play music, celebrate music”. Professional and amateur musicians alike took up the banner, mostly spontaneously and performed Jazz, rock and traditional music alongside classical performers all in one great peoples’ performance. They haven’t looked back since.
The event is now enjoyed by millions of people across France and has become a major source of attraction for visitors. In practically every town across the country artists of all categories take to the streets and perform their socks off whilst everyone else boogies on down. The whole country rocks! Particularly in hotspots such a Nice, Bordeaux and Paris where the nature of the towns lends themselves brilliantly to such performances.
The performances are free of charge, royalties are suspended for the day and the event overall is widely supported by the media with French television also featuring some of the major performing artists as well as covering the smaller events. If you want to know what’s happening on the 21st in the major towns of France there is a French language website which lists what’s on where: fete-de-la-musique.cityvox.com and you can also source information via local French tourist offices . Its important not to expect to much as these are not major professional acts, they are generally people who might not normally get an opportunity to break into a business which is so tightly in the grip of the music industry movers and shakers. There are acts which perform who are well known in France such as Tokio Hotel and Joachim Garraud who played 2007, just don’t expect Oasis or Duffy to turn up.
Go along with the right frame of mind and you can’t fail to enjoy a music filled day which stretches long into the balmy summer night. An outdoor venue such as the port de Nice, throbbing with people dancing on a warm evening makes for a hugely memorable experience even if you don’t understand a word of what’s being sung.
The event has been exported to other parts of the globe and in less than fifteen years a form of the fete de la music has appeared in over a hundred countries on the five continents, including cities such as Berlin, Budapest, Barlecona, Liverpool, Luxembourg , Rome, Naples and Prague.
How strange that such a brilliant festival celebrating music exists only on such a grand scale in a country which looks with envy across the channel at the fantastic abundance of musical talent on offer in the UK. Where we have a seemingly relentless flow of artists who nonchalantly produce a steady stream of hits which populate the charts around the world, we have only a limited participation in a major event to celebrate the art at which we clearly excel.