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La Fete de la Musique

06/27/07 12:00AM By Mike Martin
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(HOST) Since the dawn of recorded history, civilizations have celebrated the summer solstice with music. Commentator Mike Martin reports that a new take on the ancient tradition that started in France - is now sweeping around the world.

(MARTIN) What a powerful hold music has on us! Think of all the struggling, or part-time, or closet musicians in the world. Think of all the campfire strummers, dorm-room jammers, basement drummers, and open-mic regulars. And where do all the un-famous, underpaid professionals find the courage to keep playing all those weddings and bar mitzvahs, juke joints, airport lounges and dingy pubs? Why don't they just get better day jobs? Music must work some deep spell on us when you think about it. Just look at all the musicians in the world.

And maybe we're all musicians deep down. Even if you don't sing in the shower, you've probably tapped out a beat on your desk before. And even if you don't do karaoke, I'll bet when you're alone in a traffic jam, with the windows all the way up and the car radio too, you probably belt 'em out like the best.

Victor Hugo put it this way, "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." In other words, humans have a deep-burning need to make music - not just listen to it.

This is the idea behind La F te de la Musique, a national music holiday in France every June 21st since 1982. Now it has become an international festival to celebrate all kinds of music for all kinds of people, with events taking place everywhere from street corners to concert halls. This year's edition was celebrated on five continents, in over one hundred countries and three hundred cities, including New York City for the first time.

The New York version, called "Make Music New York" harkens back to the original slogan, "F te de la Musique, Faites de la Musique", a pun on the word "festival" that includes the imperative, "Make music."

And that's just what New Yorkers did this year to welcome in the summer - with Indian ragas, American jazz, French pop, and Native American drumming - while in France alone there were at least 180,000 official concerts and an estimated one million participants making music of all kinds.

But the festival's unscheduled events are some of the best ones, like the reggae band I saw playing out of a moving pizza van in Paris one year. Or the time some friends made a samba parade in Nice with nothing more than pots and pans. Or the time the owner of a couscous restaurant gave my brother-in-law and me free drinks to keep playing jazz to the crowd that had formed in front of his restaurant. And from Bono, to the Cure, to Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, music stars often mix in with the crowds and give impromptu sidewalk performances.

When I think of all the people, in Bulgaria, Morocco, Australia, Vietnam, Cameroon, Columbia, and Mongolia, who made music at la F te de la Musique this year, it makes me optimistic. With all the problems in the world, how beautiful it is to take to the streets all over the planet to give a shout out to summer, to music, and to fun.

Mike Martin writes about issues of culture and education and teaches French at Champlain Valley Union High School. M

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