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

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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

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.


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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