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Fête de la Musique 2019: How to make the most of France’s biggest street music party

Friday marks the annual "Fête de la Musique" in France. Here's what you need to know about the country's biggest street music party and how to make the most of it.

Fête de la Musique 2019: How to make the most of France's biggest street music party
People dancing in the street in Lyon on Fête de la Musique. Photo: AFP

If you're in France on Friday, you're in for a good time as the country comes alive to the sound of music. 

If you want to get into the spirit of things, prepare to dance up a storm as impromptu concerts take over the streets. 

Here's a look at what you need to know about the event and how you can make the most of it. 

1. It really is a huge party

The festival is one of France's favourites, and Friday's 38th edition will see music performances cropping up all over the country to be enjoyed for free by the public. 
 
This wonderful event, largely spontaneous, animates squares, streets, monuments, schools, hospitals, towns and the countryside,” said Culture Minister Franck Riester. 
 
And it really is popular. To get an idea of the scale of the event, government figures say 10 million people have been taking to the streets in recent years.
 
 
This video shot at the 2017 event gives a good idea of the atmosphere on the streets in French towns and cities.
 

 
2. What's on 
 
Most events begin at 2pm and run till around 11pm, although many will go on much later (so if you live in a busy area, don't expect to get much sleep).
 
There are thousands of free events around the country for the public to get involved in, including choirs, DJ sets, classic music, rock and pop – something to suit all tastes.
 
 
This year the traditional concert given in the gardens of the Palais Royal in Paris returns after it was skipped last year and replaced with six regional concerts.
 
But even if you can't make it to the famous sites, there will be music of every kind in public areas all over the country. Both amateur and professional performers will be on show on the streets, in the pubs, even on their balconies.
 
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 more intimate.
 
Go to the official Fete de la Musique website for more information on events happening across France.
 
This website has an interactive map for Fete de la Musique events (see below). 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. 
 

 

3. You can party with the president 
 
For the second consecutive year, French President Emmanuel Macron is inviting people to celebrate the event at the Elysee Palace.
 
This year's event at the Elysee will put the spotlight on female musicians, with French indie folk duo Brigitte, Iris Gold, Pongo and Irish group Saint Sister, all set to grace the stage at the presidential palace. 
 
And you might even get a glimpse of the big man himself, with the French leader and Brigitte Macron making an appearance at last year's concert (see video below). 
 

 
Find out more about the Elysee event here.
 
4. Join in with the joint sign-along of the European anthem

 
There is one part of 2019's Fete de la Musique which makes it stand out from the events of previous years. 
 
The Ministry of Culture is encouraging everyone to perform an interpretation of the European anthem Ode to Joy – composed by Ludwig van Beethoven in 1823.
 

This is supposed to take place at 8pm on Friday as a “unifying event” for all the European countries celebrating Fete de la Musique. 
 
This brings us on to our next point…
 
5. 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 way).
 
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. 
 
Photo: AFP

 

6. The party is the brainchild of an American
 
The concept came about back in the 70s 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. 

 
7. 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.

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MUSIC

8 of French duo Daft Punk’s most memorable moments

One of the era's defining dancefloor acts hung up their helmets on Monday, as French electronic music stars Daft Punk announced their retirement in a typically enigmatic fashion with a video showing one of them exploding in a desert.

8 of French duo Daft Punk's most memorable moments
Photo: AFP

From Da Funk in 1995 to Get Lucky in 2013, Daft Punk became the torch-bearers for French house music across the globe, winning six Grammy awards and pioneering the monumental sound-and-light shows that came to characterise the electronic dance movement (EDM) of recent years.

They did so while almost never revealing their faces — the ubiquitous helmets became another much-copied trope of EDM stars, but also afforded Thomas Bangalter, 46, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 47, a freedom from the fame that quickly encircled them.

“We have daily lives that are a lot more normal than the lives of artists who have the same level of fame as us, but who might be attached to being physically recognised,” Bangalter said in a rare authorised documentary by the BBC in 2015.

Here are some of the highlights of their career – although for our money nothing will beat the French army band’s performance of a Daft Punk medley at the Bastille Day celebrations in 2017, in front of president Emmanuel Macron and a plainly bemused Donald Trump.

1. “Daft punky thrash”

Bangalter and Homem-Christo met at school in Paris before an inauspicious start in music with the rock band Darlin’, which also featured a future member of the French indie band Phoenix.

One review in the British music press dismissed the band as “daft punky thrash” — which struck a chord with them.

Reemerging as an electronic outfit, they met with instant success.

This interview from 1995 is one of the few images of their faces:

2. Their signature look in “Around the World”

Early singles “Da Funk” and “Around the World” became club fixtures, and led to massive sales for their debut album “Homework” in 1997.

It was in the video for “Around the World” that they first donned the helmets that would become their signature look. It mirrored the tight control they exercised over every part of their career, which included ownership of their master recordings.

3. “One More Time”

They followed up with the even more successful “Discovery” in 2001, which spawned the hits “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.

There were some distinctively left-field choices in the years that followed, including producing the 2003 film “Interstella 5555” by Japanese anime master Leiji Matsumoto, which featured music from “Discovery”.

4. Human After All

While their next album in 2005, a more sombre “Human After All”, received mixed reviews, these were quickly forgotten amid the euphoria of their live shows over the next two years.

This included a headline appearance at US festival Coachella in 2006, performed inside a giant LED pyramid. EDM fans still speak about it with an almost religious reverence.

5. Tron soundtrack

In 2010, they released a soundtrack to the Disney reboot of Tron, which picked up a Grammy nomination.

6. “Random Access Memories”

But no one predicted the massive success of their last album, 2013’s “Random Access Memories”, for which they gave up their usual makeshift home rig for a full commercial studio– and used entirely live instruments.

The resulting work dominated album-of-the-year lists and helped lift their total worldwide sales to 12 million. It won four Grammies the following year including record of the year for “Get Lucky”, the millions-selling lead single featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

Their appearance at the Grammy Awards show was their last public appearance for three years.

7. “I Feel It Coming”

They showed up one more time for the Grammy ceremony in 2017, alongside The Weeknd, after collaborating on the Canadian artist’s most recent album.

Despite the Twittersphere erupting in excitement last month amid rumours they would rejoin The Weeknd for the Super Bowl half-time show, that did not in the end materialise. 

8. “Epilogue”

The video titled “Epilogue” announcing their split used footage from their cult 2006 film “Electroma” in which one of the robots sets the auto-destruct of the other.

A cutaway then reads “1993-2021” with two robot hands making a circle around a sunset.

Their publicist, Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the news to AFP by email, without giving a reason for the split.

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