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Experiencing a Fête de la Musique event in France is just magical. I actually stumbled across this cultural occurrence quite by accident one year in Paris, but have since sought out the events across France. The brain-child of Jack Lang, the Minister of Culture in France, the first World Music Day happened in Paris in 1982. The idea is to bring music of all varieties out onto the streets for one day a year – on the 21st of June.
The streets of Paris are vibrant anyway, with buskers and dancers and the natural buzz of a busy city. But add to this the events of the Fête de la Musique and you have the opportunity to witness something incredible! Every street corner has a band or a singer – there are brass bands, rock bands, solo songwriters, and music students. Walk a block and you’ll hear three different kinds of music, and as the night falls, the music gets even more energetic. Grab yourself a table at a nearby café and enjoy the vibe; or pop open a can of beer and enjoy the street festivities.
Back in 2010, I decided that I wanted to play a Fête de la Musique (I’m a musician in my spare time), so I casually emailed the Mayor of Lyon. Yes, you heard it right, I just emailed the Mayor. And guess what, he replied and I got myself a spot on a huge riverside stage in Lyon for the Fête de la Musique in 2010. It was a surreal experience, but it really reflects the spirit of the festival – to bring musicians together and to bring that all to the streets!
Small town France
Some of the best Fête de la Musique festivities happen in small town France – small stages set up in town squares to showcase local talent. We were lucky to play the Fête in a tiny village in the Vienne in 2017. Our audience were a mix of locals and tourists and we sat out in the street until midnight, drinking wine and enjoying the other bands. It had such a wonderful feeling of community – music really does bring people together. The idea of World Music Day has now spread around the world.
All photos © Hannah Henderson and may not be used without permission (sharing this blog post is fine, though!).