June 21 is one of the best days (and nights) to be in Paris. On this day every year, free music is to be had throughout the French capital. The annual Fête de la Musique ("Musical Festival") is a completely free festival whose sole purpose is to offer the pure enjoyment of listening to live music performances throughout the day and night. It’s always held on June 21, the summer solstice, and it’s open to anyone and everyone who would like to join in.
Fete de la Musique, Paris' annual event in June — Photo courtesy of Jean-Pierre Dalbera
Launched in 1982 by the French Ministry of Culture, the festival's aim is to support the offering of music to the wider population and also to promote performances in different venues. Since all of the concerts are given for free, you will often find musical performances in state venues such as castles, parks, public squares and even museums and train stations.
The participating bands, musical groups, orchestras and singers are all asked to perform without pay for this one day, thus providing a completely free musical entertainment for all to enjoy.
The Fête de la Musique is now observed in over 100 countries worldwide, pretty much wherever there is a resident French community. The magic of this Music Day, and what sets it apart from other music festivals, is that it gives the opportunity to share and communicate special moments through music with a broad spectrum of people from varied backgrounds, ages and cultures.
The French Ministry of Culture puts on the annual Fete de la Musique. — Photo courtesy of Paige Donner
It’s worth checking the website for more details and the day’s schedule, but here are some venues you can mark on your calendar for June 21, 2014, in Paris:
Concerts by young and talented classical musicians will be held at the Petit Palais - Musée Des Beaux-Arts de La Ville de Paris. This museum is just across from the Grand Palais, so it’s right off the Champs Elysées. Concerts will be held every 30 minutes starting from 3 p.m. and going until 5 p.m.
Afterwards, you could head to Place Denfert Rochereau, where Ricard S. A. has a lineup of some of the most promising young French rock bands of their generation. Here, you can listen to live sessions by Pendentif, Rocky, Odezenne and Griefjoy. This concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and will likely be somewhat of a younger crowd.
For genuine world music offerings, the city has also organized a Brazilian percussion band who is giving a concert as well as a Syrian-Palestinian group who, as political exiles from Syria, are giving a concert the evening of 2014’s Fête de la Musique. The Brazilian percussion band is called Batucadas. In their native Brazil, these musicians play their drums and other percussion instruments as accompaniment to the famous Carnival of Rio de Janeiro. The concert by Batucadas is happening at the Cité de la Musique from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For more world music selections, you can catch the Refugees of Rap, who formed as a group in the refugee camp of Yarmouk in the outskirts of Damascus. They fled Syria in 2013 following the destruction of their studio, evidently provoked by the lyrics of their rap songs. Currently living in exile in France, they sing about the revolution taking place in the Middle East. This concert is taking place at the Institut des Cultures d’Islam – Léon from 8:30 p.m. until 10 p.m.