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La Fête de la musique turns 40: events planned around France

Over the years, the festival has grown increasingly popular. We look at how to find concerts near you 

France’s Fête de la musique takes place today (June 21) Pic: Alexandre Lepan / Shutterstock

France’s Fête de la musique music festival is celebrating its fortieth anniversary today (June 21), with hundreds of events planned around the country. 

The first Fête de la musique was held on the longest day of the year (June 21) in 1982, and was an idea of the culture ministry, which wanted to create “a celebratory, popular and spontaneous event, which is aimed at all people and looks to highlight and promote amateur [musicians].” 

Each year, concerts and impromptu performances take place across France’s community centres, museums, theatres, cafés, public streets and cultural venues throughout the day and into the night, with many events offering free entry. 

Since its inception, the Fête has been picked up by countries around the world, and 1,000 cities in more than 120 countries now take part. 

After two years of Covid-related disruption, the Fête is returning this year with a full programme. 

For example, in Nice people will be able to enjoy classical music, pop-rock, an Elvis tribute, jazz and a concert put on by lycée students in various indoor and outdoor venues around the city. 

In Paris, there will be jazz music playing in Buttes Chaumont park, chamber music in the Musée national Jean-Jacques Henner, a DJ “making Montmartre buzz” and more. 

You can find out more about the events taking place near you using this interactive map.

Jack Lang, the Culture Minister who founded the Fête de la musique, has dedicated this year’s event to Steve Maia Caniço, who was killed during a controversial police operation on the day of the 2019 festival. 

“I wish to pay homage to Steve Maia Caniço, who drowned in the Loire on June 21, 2019, following a police intervention,” Mr Lang tweeted. “Steve, a symbol of joy, of sharing, of union, you will always remain in our hearts.”

The changing face of the Fête de la musique 

“Hundreds of thousands of French people will be outside with their musical instruments, uninhibited, to celebrate the birth of summer,” Mr Lang said on June 21, 1982. “This huge army of musicians will show their strength this evening in public spaces, in shops, streets outside their homes, at their windows.”

The then director of music at the culture ministry, Maurice Fleuret, added: “There are more than five million French people who make music. One French person in three possesses at least one musical instrument. 

“Until now, we have only known the tip of the iceberg – big institutions, musical stars – but we do not know just how many French people make music [...] Let them show us!”

France’s first Fête de la musique was more focused on small, spontaneous performances than today, when the public can also expect large events in concert halls and on the television.

The 1982 was by no means a failure, but the transient, improvised nature of the concerts meant that it did not immediately establish itself as a permanent fixture in France’s cultural calendar. 

In that year, it also had to compete against a football World Cup match taking place in Spain on the same day, which dominated television channels’ attention.  

Over the years, the event has grown in size and stature, with local councils beginning to play a more active role in organising events. For some, this has caused it to lose something of its impromptu, intimate feel. 

Therefore, this year, the culture ministry has said that it wants to “return to the roots of the Fête de la musique, stressing the principles which laid at its foundation: a celebratory event, popular and spontaneous.” 

Toulouse’s city hall will not be organising any official events this year, so that the musicians themselves can make the decisions.

Tonight, a concert will take place at the Elysée palace, and France 2 will run its annual programme from the Esplanade de l’Europe in Montpellier, with artists including Black Eyed Peas and Juliette Armanet making appearances. 

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