What is the Fête de la musique?

What is the Fête de la musique?

by Clara Avrillier

Updated November 7, 2022

The galette des rois, Bastille Day…the French never miss an opportunity to celebrate an occasion or have a national holiday. And why shouldn’t they? These events and holidays bring people together and unify the country. 

Music is another wonderful way of bringing people together (Eurovision is the prime example!) and the fête de la musique is France’s very own celebration of music. But what is the fête de la musique? Learn all about this awesome event, when it happens and other important facts about the fête de la musique. You’ll soon be running to book a flight to join in these exciting celebrations!

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What is the Fête de la musique?

Simply put, the fête de la musique is a free music festival held in France every year. It is also known as World Music Day or Make Music Day in English. 

When is world music day, or Fête de la musique?

This world music day is held every year in France on June 21, which coincides with the summer solstice. 

When did it start?

Ironically the idea for the fête de la musique began in the 1970s with an American musician, Joel Cohen, who was working for Radio France, the French national radio station. He was working as a producer for the station and proposed the idea of “Saturnalia of Music”, a way to celebrate both the summer and winter solstice. 

It was only several years later in 1982 that the idea was eventually implemented by Jack Lang, the Minister of Culture in France. Lang had appointed Maurice Fleuret as the director of music and dance and they developed the concept of a music day in France. June 21, 1982, marks the very first time the fête de la musique was held in the country.

Why fête de la musique?

The primary aim of the fête de la musique is simply to celebrate music and make it accessible to everyone. Lang and Fleuret came up with the concept of “music everywhere and concerts nowhere”: they wanted to make it possible for everyone in the country to be able to listen to all styles and genres of music wherever they were. 

Following a large survey held in 1982, the pair were surprised to discover that one in two young people in France played a musical instrument because they felt that any prior musical events only concerned a small minority of the population. So they decided to create the fête de la musique to provide free music that all French people could enjoy and that included all musical genres. 

How is the fête de la musique celebrated?

If you’re ever in France on June 21, you’ll know straight away that it’s the fête de la musique. In major cities across the country, roads and streets are often blocked off to make way for concerts! The festival is free and performed by both amateur and professional musicians. 

Many of the concerts are held outside as it is light for longer in the summer evenings and is generally warm, however many concert halls and theaters also open their doors to welcome members of the public free of charge. Bars and restaurants will also have musicians play for the public, so if you take a stroll down a French street you will hear music coming from every direction. Most places are given special permission to stay open longer than usual to celebrate the fête de la musique. It’s a truly wonderful music festival in France which brings cities and towns alive with the sound of music. 

Nowadays, this French music festival has spread internationally and is held in over 120 countries around the world.

Music to your ears

What better way to learn French than through the medium of music? The fête de la musique is such a joyous occasion and is a great opportunity to celebrate music, discover new styles and genres and spend quality time with loved ones. So grab a drink and raise a glass to this fantastic festival!

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Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with expats looking to move to France. Connect with her on LinkedIn

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