So many great music festivals are held each year in France, but Fêtes de la musique is probably the most well-known.
Celebrated all over France it’s a chance for musicians of all ages, abilities and genres to come together to make music.
People fill the streets to watch bands playing, hear music they might not have heard before, and the atmosphere is one of fun and enjoyment.
In Paris, you’ll see people dancing along the river Seine and it’s the same in many other parts of France.
In my region in the Poitou-Charentes, for example, you’ll see them filling the river banks of the Charente in the big towns such as Cognac and Angouleme. And the smaller towns such as Ruffec, Mansle and Aubeterre-Sur-Dronne give them a run for their money too with concerts held in the town squares, restaurants and bars.
When is Fête de la musique held each year?
The Fete de la musique is held the same day each year on the summer solstice, June 21st. It’s the longest day of the year and the perfect time to celebrate this music festival outside while enjoying the beautiful French summer.
Although, many concert halls and theatres also put on events inside and they’re all free to attend.
What are the origins of Fête de la musique?
Contrary to popular belief, it was originally an idea that came about in the 1970s when an American musician named Joel Cohen, who worked for Radio France, came up with the idea of celebrating the summer and winter solstice with music.
He proposed the idea of “Saturnalia of Music,” which was later developed into the Fête de la Musique.
The idea was eventually implemented in 1982 by Jack Lang, the Minister of Culture in France, and Maurice Fleuret, the director of music and dance.
After conducting a survey they discovered that one in two young people in France played a musical instrument, meaning the interest was there. And this was part of the inspiration behind the creation of the event.
Lang and Fleuret wanted a festival where all styles and genres of music could be enjoyed by all French people. It had to be an event that was accessible to everyone, not just an elite few.
As things developed and started to take shape the slogan, “Faites de la musique, Fête de la musique” which translates as “Make music, Music party”, was created.
And now, the event is in its 41st year and sees musicians of all abilities coming together for the pure enjoyment of making music.
How many countries celebrate Fête de la musique?
The popularity of the event took on a life of its own and within ten years had spread to 85 countries on 5 different continents. And by 2017, it had reached over 120 countries worldwide inspiring people to take part in whatever they could.
You’ll find landmark cities such as New York, London and Berlin all have their own versions of Fete de la musique.
How does France celebrate the Fête de la musique?
The first time I got to enjoy Fete de la musique was in La Rochelle and it was fabulous. Sitting on the harbour taking in the Atlantic coastline, listening to the music and enjoying great seafood was an amazing way to experience the event.
We saw performers of all types from dance troupes to school choirs it was brilliant and went on late into the night.
We finished the evening with a sultry jazz and blues band that was seriously good, and who we’d never have heard under normal circumstances.
Like all events, it takes some planning and there is a website dedicated to Fete de la musique where participants can register their events and get help with promotional materials.
And it’s not just big cities and towns that celebrate the event.
You’ll find most villages will have something going on and many local restaurants and bars put on events as well.
A lot of the main roads are blocked off for the event so you can leave your car at home and enjoy wandering the streets without worrying about traffic.
Conclusion: Final thoughts about Fête de la musique in France
- It’s an all-day and night event throughout France
- The event is a non-profit event and all concerts are free to attend
- It takes place on the same day every year, June 21st
- Music of all genres is represented and both amateur and professional musicians take part
- It takes place in village squares, main streets, restaurants, bars, parks, gardens, public buildings and areas, and even museums
To find out more about Fete de la musique visit the official website.