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Six things to know about France's biggest music party
Street performers get down to the beat in 2015's festival. All photos: AFP

Six things to know about France's biggest music party

Oliver Gee · 21 Jun 2016, 10:52

Published: 21 Jun 2016 10:52 GMT+02:00
Updated: 21 Jun 2016 10:52 GMT+02:00

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1: It really is a huge party
The festival is one of France's favourites, and Tuesday's 35th anniversary will see music performances cropping up all over the country to be enjoyed for free by the public. 
And it really is popular. To get an idea of the scale of the event, government figures say 10 million people took to the streets last year alone, with 5.2 million people playing instruments. There were 17,000 events nationwide, 1,500 in the capital. 

(Children in Nantes, western France, joining the festivities. Photo: AFP)
2: This year won't be like the last one
Last year's party was on a Sunday meaning spectators could enjoy the music all day long, and as it's on a Tuesday this time around many spectators might be tempted to stay at home. Plus it hasn't stopped raining in Paris for months
But there are more serious undertones this time around too. The theme this year is "Music is stronger than ..." with Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay saying the event will be about "overcoming our fears, fighting division, because music is stronger than those who want to shut it off."
Since the last party, France has been through a tough time, most notably with the November terror attacks in Paris that saw 130 people killed. Terrorists targeted the Bataclan concert hall in the attacks during a performance, killing 89 people. 
With France still under a national state of emergency since the attacks, and with security even tighter due to the ongoing Euro 2016 tournament that France is hosting, it's a safe bet that many will be hoping for a quieter night. 
3: The party is the brainchild of an American
The concept came about back in the seventies when American Joel Cohen was working as a music producer for French National Radio (France Musique).
He came up with the idea of a day full of music to celebrate the summer solstice on June 21st - the longest day of the year - and the idea caught on. 
By 1982 the French government put its weight behind the idea and made it an official event and it's been popular ever since. 
4: It's an international event
The rest of the world didn't take long to feel the beat of the festival, and it soon became an international success too. This year 120 countries are expected to participate.
The festival is known in English as Make Music Day or World Music Day, as the French title is a homophone that can mean both (the slogan is "faites de la musique" which is pronounced the same).
The festival was carried out in 700 cities around the world last year, in countries as far as Russia, Brazil, and Australia. 
But as usual, the biggest party this year will be in France which typically has too many events to even count. 

(People dance on the street in Lyon, central France. Photo: AFP)
5: France is still expecting to party
In public areas all over the country there will be free music of every kind. Both amateur and professional performers will be on show on the streets, in the pubs, even from their balconies.
Thousands of musicians perform across France each year.
Story continues below…
In the capital, people usually flock to the city centre to see what the fuss is all about. Hotspots like Rue Oberkampf are normally swarming, but keep an eye out along some of the quieter streets if you're looking for something a bit cozier.
To make sure you're going to find the best of the best, be sure to take a closer look at the full programme here.
There are so many events planned that you can even select the style of music you like together with the city you're in just to narrow it down. 

(A band plays for passersby in central Paris. Photo: AFP)
6: The event hasn't always gone smoothly
But it's not all smiles and laughter, as the event has proved controversial in the past. In 2014, 50 venues in Paris boycotted the event as part of a protest of the "abusive behaviour" of police, who had been cracking down on late night noise in the area.
Here's hoping that the 2016 festival - sandwiched between football hooligans and terrorists - can show prove that music really is stronger than everything else going on, even if only for a day. 
To be fair, last year's party was on a Sunday meaning spectators could enjoy the music all day long. As it's on a Tuesday this time around (and considering it's still raining in Paris at least), many spectators might be tempted to stay at home.
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