Forty years later, why is the Fête de la Musique no longer what it used to be?

After two years of disruption linked to the pandemic, the Fête de la Musique intends to regain its essence: “A festive, popular and spontaneous event, which aims to promote amateur practices“. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

Lack of spontaneity, less room for amateurs… For some, the institution created by Jack Lang in 1982 has lost its luster.

June 21 marks the first day of summer each year. Since 1982, it is also the day when we celebrate music in France, and in a hundred other countries. After two years of disruption linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Fête de la Musique returns in its simplest and most effective form: concerts by the hundreds, in all the cities of France, with professional and amateur musicians. But is the spirit instilled in 1982 by the Minister of Culture Jack Lang at this party that quickly became an institution still the same 40 years later?

Less room for amateur musicians

For this anniversary edition, the Ministry of Culture has given its guidelines: “returning to the fundamentals of the Fête de la Musique, emphasizing the principles that presided over its creation: a festive, popular and spontaneous event, which is aimed at all audiences and which aims to highlight and promote amateur practices. But for some, this spontaneity, which was the essence of the event when it was created, has disappeared today. On a Facebook group dedicated to the Fête de la Musique, user Al Guterinos is indignant: “Originally, the Fête de la Musique was intended to get everyone out on the street with their musical instrument, no matter where, no matter who, no matter if they were playing in tune or not, the important thing was to participate and it was really great!“. He adds: “Now it’s over, it’s the municipalities that decide the place, the date and time of the show and the group of musicians… It’s no longer just anywhere and anyone!”.

Already in 2010, Huguette Bonomy, of the French Federation of MJC (Youth and Culture Centres), regretted this trend: “Institutional programming has continued to grow in importance. The big cities set up big stages and invite professional or semi-professional artists. And that overshadows the rest, especially amateur practice.she explained to West France .

The criticism was heard in Toulouse. The city is not organizing any official event for the Fête de la Musique this year, leaving amateur musicians free to express themselves in the Pink City, as Jonnhy Dunal explains to The Dispatch. “I wanted to give back to the Fête de la Musique its original meaning: that of a popular festival with concerts given by local musicians. We had even been criticized in the past, by organizing a stage on the Place du Capitole, of engulfing the amateur musicians of Toulouse”, explains the assistant in charge of organizing the festivities and events.

Find spontaneity

Sociologist Charitini Karakostaki, author of a thesis on festive events in France since the 1980s, explains that if the Music Festival had a real spontaneity linked to its “unique and innovative look” at the time of its creation in 1982, it was transformed with the evolution of musical listening practices but also with the context. The popularity of the event has led its organizers to set up “minimal procedures” she explains. If today any amateur or professional musician can perform for the Fête de la Musique, everyone must however register beforehand on the official agenda, on the website of the Ministry of Culture. The approach allows municipalities to broadcast a detailed program for the day of June 21, which thus offers better visibility to artists. But it amputates the party of its spontaneous aspect. In recent years, other events have disturbed the organization and have inevitably changed its spirit. The terrorist attacks which have affected France in recent years have, for example, forced the organizers to multiply security measures to supervise the concerts and bring them together in a restricted space.

“To create this impression of spontaneity, you need a good organization behind it”, concedes Charitini Karakostaki. Example in the Lyon area, where the Cours Emile-Zola, which connects Villeurbanne, French capital of culture in 2022, and Lyon, will be closed to traffic to allow the free expression of amateur musicians. This “musical boulevard”5 km long, will perhaps make it possible to rediscover this feeling of spontaneity instilled in 1982 by the instigator of the Music Festival, Jack Lang, present for the occasion.

After two years marked by the pandemic, a wind of freedom is blowing on the Fête de la musique explains the sociologist: “The public is reclaiming the Fête de la Musique. She is still as popular as ever. For some it’s the most beautiful party in the world, for others it’s like a Saturday night, an excuse for a social evening.. So, as sometimes on Saturday evening, we are disappointed. The weather comes to add its grain of salt, we are turned away from a crowded bar… But the following Saturday, we try our luck again.

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