Monday, 22 June 2009

La Fête de la Musique

rock rap soul flamenco funk organ renaissance african reggae celtic mandolin orchestral chanson choral folk portuguese klezmer jazz pop string clarinet saxophone tzigane cuban irish rock'n'roll sevillian rumba punk alternative dance electro-acoustic hypnogroove country blues post-rock metal piano guitar latino brazilian ...

... just a snapshot of last night's Fête de la Musique in Saint Girons (and the reason why we finally made it home well after 2am. And by implication the reason why the cement mixer was just a little late in starting up this morning ...).

I'd vaguely heard of La Fête de la Musique before we moved here, but I hadn't really grasped it, if you see what I mean. A nutshell resumé: the first one took place in 1982, when the renowned Jack Lang was Minister for Culture; it was officially declared a public festival in 1983. The idea was simple: that on the night of the summer solstice, there should be music of all kinds (both amateur and professional) everywhere, and that it should be always remain 'popular' - that is, free and open to, and patronised by, all.

It took off. It's reckoned that one in five French people attend the Fête de la Musique every year, and that one in ten have at some point taken part. It's also been a major factor in the flourishing of the summer music festivals that are now such a part of cultural life here. And it's been emulated, to some degree, in other countries around the world, though nowhere with the sheer vibrancy of the French festival, and not, sadly, in England.

The Fête held in our local town, Saint Girons (population: 6552), has a reputation for being one of the best not just in the department but in the entire Midi-Pyrénées region. And I believe it. More than fifty groups, playing well over 60 gigs; plus a whole gaggle of spontaneous music makers (like the four guys playing fantastic blues in a tiny gallery at 2am). The entire town centre closed to traffic and filled with 'happenings', stages, bars, bodegas, makeshift restaurants, co-operative games (well, this is Ariège ...); bar and restaurant tables spilling out into the streets; and, of course, the sound of music everywhere. And people. Thousands of people. Mostly they (we) just drift around, led from one set of sounds to another, and another, until they find themselves drawn to one that they just can't leave. The smells of barbecuing lamb and suckling pigs mingling with those of chicken colombo mixed with churros and accras de morue and galettes and barbe de papa and patchouli and marijuana (as I said, this is Ariège ...). Oh, and I only saw two gendarmes all night, and they were listening to some Celtic rock.

Fancy it, next year?


Minnie said...

Great post, interesting, informative (I've a relative newcomer) and really conveys the atmosphere. The festival was fun in Nice, also - but yours sounds more lively and varied.
Love the Ariege; but planned to settle in the Tarn back in '03, with work etc. sorted. Some nasty stuff intervened. Finally back in Frace, albeit in very, very different circs. All on my blog, among much other material, if you'd care to visit.
Will definitely return to yours. In meantime - best wishes from the other side of France,

Minnie said...

Posted about last w/e's fete in Nice, as wanted to comment; but have link to your blog in intro.
Just occurred to me that I hadn't asked. Hope this is OK with you - if not, say so; I'll remove it.

Kalba Meadows said...

Heavens yes, absolutely fine! Your F de la M sounds great too. Guess you've got some of the same edge-y people that we have here ...

Kalba Meadows said...

And oh - forgot to say ... suspect your blog is destined to occupy a good deal of my time from now on ... love the writing, the realness, the bleakness, the sense of joy (not at all contradictory, in my book). I've only managed to read a few posts so far, but already I want to know your story ...
Here we go ...

Minnie said...

Oh, Kalba - just read your last comment, which has made my day! Agree that joy not possible without knowledge of its opposite(and vice versa).
Thank you.
Do feel free to comment. Must admit I feel a bit spooked at present, as have plenty of regular visitors who don't comment/identify themselves.
Have fingers and all other digits (difficult to type, then ... or at least that's my excuse) + limbs crossed, but I think things might be improving. About time, too!
Very best to you.
PS Am huge admirer of Carl Honore and his works + Citta Slow movement. Cheers cubed to you for emulating 'em. Wish more would do so.