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LISTEN: Five things to know about France’s Fête de la musique

The one day a year where your neighbours cannot be mad at you for blasting the music, and where everyone across France gets their groove on - here is what you need to know about the Fête de la musique.

LISTEN: Five things to know about France's Fête de la musique
Singer Iris Gold performs in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace as part of "Fete de la Musique" (Photo by Lewis JOLY / POOL / AFP)

It is on the longest day of the year Fête de la musique (music festival) takes place every year on June 21st – no matter what the day of the week is. This year, it falls on a Tuesday.

This day is also the longest day of the year and the summer solstice, so music listeners can soak up lots of daylight while jamming to the band, DJ set, or orchestra playing on their street corner. Celebrations on the summer solstice aren’t specific to France – Nordic countries, where the sun doesn’t set on June 21st, also have their fair share of festivities in the daylight.

It was invented by an American – The concept came about back in the 70s when American musician 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 solstices, originally proposing “Saturnales de la Musique” which would be celebrated on both June 21st and December 21st with a special musical program broadcast all night long.

His idea for the June festival did eventually catch on (although December 21st is not a festival day in France) and that’s how Fête de la musique as we know it was born,

It’s all over France…and the world – Fête de la musique is celebrated all over France, from small towns to large cities.

In 2019, over 10 million people took part, and depending on where you go, it does have the potential to get a bit rowdy.

It has also gone global, and over 100 countries celebrate it. It started being exported out of France as early as in 1985, during the “European Year of Music.” Then, in 1997, several other European cities signed onto a charter to be ‘partners of the European Music Festival.’ In the United States, several cities also take part, calling it “Make Music Day.”

It has become such a big deal that at one point in 1998 a postage stamp was dedicated to it, right alongside stamps for the Olympic Games and the Queen of England. 

It’s on the French calendar, but not a public holiday – In 1982 the then-Culture Minister Jack Lang, launched the first official edition of the Fête de la Musique in France, with the help of Maurice Fleuret.

The French government got behind the idea and made it an official event and it’s been popular ever since.

That being said, even though the event is marked on French calendars, it is not a jour férié, so you don’t get the day off of work sadly.

Professionals and amateurs alike – Fête de la musique is not just for professional musicians – it is truly a democratised event where anyone and everyone can get involved.

Though a lot of big name musicians take advantage of the day to plan concerts or symphonies, you’ll still see plenty of amateur musicians out on the streets just playing their instruments or singing. You might even see people just set up a big speaker and blast whatever music they feel like listening to.

The goal of the day is to promote the arts, and give everyone dedicated time to appreciate music.

If you’re looking to figure out where and how to celebrate, you can go to this website to see which events are planned.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

French doctors advise ‘be more Spanish’ as heatwaves continue

With a fourth summer heatwave on the horizon for France, French doctors are advising their compatriots to copy Spanish habits to deal with the high temperatures.

French doctors advise 'be more Spanish' as heatwaves continue

France has had a dangerously hot summer – one that emergency doctor, Patrick Pelloux, estimates will lead to “5,000 to 10,000 excess deaths” by the end of the season.

French weather forecaster Météo France has repeatedly sounded the alert for dangerously high temperatures via its heat alert system – as of Wednesday, 18 départements are on ‘orange’ alert for high temperatures.

As a result, several emergency medicine doctors have announced new recommendations to help the French adapt and stay safe in the warmer temperatures.

Interestingly enough, it might involve mimicking the behaviours of France’s neighbours to the south – known for their heat adapted lifestyles (e.g. the afternoon siesta).

French daily Le Parisien, has even published a map comparing temperatures in French cities to those in Spain:

Here’s how these doctors recommend the French become more Spanish:

Alter the daily routine – Spain is famous for its afternoon siestas and late evening meals. In France the classic apéro or ‘happy hour’ usually begins at about 5 or 6pm with dinner at 7pm or 8pm, but during the heatwave many bar owners are reporting that terraces are empty at 5pm, and only fill up from 9pm when the temperatures start to fall.

Pelloux recommended to Le Parisien that the French may need to begin adjusting their working hours to avoid the hottest part of the day, but continue until later in the evening.

Another emergency medicine doctor, Agnès Ricard-Hibon, who works as head of the Samu du Val-d’Oise emergency unit, told the newspaper: “It is logical that we imitate the Spanish rhythm.

“When it’s very hot, you have to get up earlier and take a break in the afternoon, especially if you’re a vulnerable person with a risk of complications due to dehydration.”

It might also be recommended to extend the classic 12-2pm shop and office closure and keep shops closed during the high heat of the early afternoon, and instead take evening strolls at 8pm, rather than earlier.

Pelloux said that as France transitions “from a temperate to a tropical climate, we will have to stop working between noon and 5 pm.” 

No more tanning and goodbye suits – With skin cancer on the rise in France, experts worry about the popularity of the tanning trend, particularly during the hottest parts of the day.

Emergency physician Christophe Prudhomme told Le Parisien that it might be necessary to “close beaches at the hottest times” in order to keep people safe from the heat.

He also said we might have to change our fashion habits – dark coloured clothing, such as suits, hold in heat on hot days. Prudhomme recommends embracing fashion trends with more breathable fabric, such as cotton or linen.

In Spain, prime minister Pedro Sanchez is leading the way by announcing that he will no longer wear a tie when the weather is hot.

Lighter lunches – Ricard-Hibo told Le Parisien that as the days go by, we must learn to accept the heat and lighten our lunches.

Other experts recommend eating lots of hydrating foods during heatwaves, so maybe this is your opportunity to test out a particularly tasty gazpacho for your midday meal. The Local Spain has some other delicious recommendations to test out during the hot weather. 

READ MORE: The best Spanish food and drink to keep you cool during the summer heat

What about the official governmental advice? 

Meanwhile, the French government’s official advice is of course to drink plenty of water, but it is also a bit contradictory to the gazpacho suggestion – in the graphic below, you can see the French government recommending regular meals to keep from feeling faint in the high temperatures.

The government also recommends keeping the shutters closed, avoiding alcohol (maybe go light on the sangria), and staying cool by ‘getting your body wet’ whether that be by jumping in a fountain or standing in a brumisateurs (the machine that pumps out water vapour).

Eat sufficient meals and shut the shutters – French government advice for staying cool in a heatwave

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