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Fête de la Musique


By Emmanuelle Schopp

Bonjour à tous,

For this issue of the WWN, the topic to be discussed is “the pop culture in your country.” Well, I have to say that I find it a very difficult topic because it is very broad and encompasses so many different things — hence my difficulty to find what I would possibly write about. As far as I am concerned, I see pop culture as a set of many different things that are embedded in a specific culture and that appeal to a large number of people (to the “masses”), as opposed to a higher culture that would only be accessible by a very limited number of people.

For me, pop culture is thus literally popular culture, and it is therefore by using this personal definition that I will tell you about a specific aspect of popular culture in France.

One very popular event that takes place throughout France every year on June 21st is the “Fête de la Musique,” a free public festival celebrating music. The Fête de la Musique was created in 1982 by the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, and has since then been an important cultural and popular event in France. In fact, this special day is also known as Make Music Day or World Music Day around the world because it is not only celebrated in France, but also throughout the world. It started to spread to other countries in 1985 and has now become an international day of festivities in 120 countries, all over the five continents. However, I would say that what makes it even more popular in France is the fact that it was born in this very country.


But we can then wonder how and why this idea of creating a festival celebrating music appeared. Although the Fête de la Musique was first introduced in 1982 by the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang, it is under the influence of and, after some research carried out, because of Maurice Fleuret that the creation of this day was made possible. Maurice Fleuret was Director of Music and Dance at Minister Jack Lang’s request, and he started to reflect on the musical practice and its evolution and came to this conclusion: “la musique partout et le concert nulle part” (music everywhere and concert nowhere). Indeed, he discovered in a 1982 study on the cultural habits of the French that five million people played a musical instrument, but that most of the existing musical events only addressed a small portion of the population. Since there was proof that French people were music lovers and musicians, he began to dream of a way to bring people out on the streets and make music accessible to a larger public. It first took place on June 21st 1982 in Paris as the Fête de la Musique. But why do we celebrate this event on June 21st? Well, this is not a random day of the calendar. Coinciding with the first day of summer or summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year, this celebration is a sort of continuity of an old tradition of the “fêtes de la Saint-Jean” celebrating the solstice and originating in the cult of the sun. Celebrating the Fête de la Musique on the first day of summer is also a fun way to greet the new season in a festive atmosphere.

In French, “Fête de la Musique” is a homophone of “Faites de la musique” (make some music), which is the slogan used to encourage all musicians, amateur and professional alike, to perform in the streets. Many free concerts are organized, making all genres of music accessible to the public. In fact, it is a requirement of the Department of the Ministry of culture that all concerts must be free to the public, and all performers donate their time. It is through these two essential ways that the Fête de la Musique intends to promote music in France. In that sense, we can say that this event is definitely a “popular event” because it is accessible to everyone.

Manu2This major event is broadcasted every year on French TV and is very popular. Some of the most famous French artists of the time perform on stage in front of a huge crowd. Of course, this event is not identical throughout the country: in big cities, people can go to very large outdoor concerts and dances and  see many famous artists perform on stage, whereas in smaller cities or villages, the celebrations, concerts, or performances are often of a smaller scale. This does not mean that they are less enjoyable, though! Local music bands and musicians also play in the streets until late at night while people dance, eat food, have drinks, and chat. In bigger cities, festivities can start in the mid afternoon (although the main events take place at night) while in smaller towns or villages, they often only start in the early evening. For instance, in my village in Normandy (North West of France), the Fête de la Musique only starts around 7-7:30pm. It takes place in one of the main streets of the village and consists of a few local bands and food booths. Families, friends, and neighbors simply enjoy going out together and sharing a nice evening of festivities outside.

Above all, I would say that this day of the year is a great opportunity to enjoy the summer out, good food, drinks, and entertaining events. It is this kind of festivities that enables to bring people together in an atmosphere of joy, friendliness, relaxation, and togetherness. So if you are in France during that period, I strongly advise you to take part in the Fête de la Musique as it is a great way to mingle with French people, discover a popular event of French culture, or simply enjoy good music, food, and drinks, and practice your French!

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  1. 1 Comment(s)

  2.   By John Smith on Mar 3, 2016 | Reply

    Very Intresting!

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