People around the world celebrate the French for inventing cinema and for making kissing an art form. On Saturday, Sacramento united with hundreds of other countries to celebrate with the French for the Fête de la Musique, which translates to World Music Day.
Alliance Française de Sacramento, a non-governmental organization promoting French culture and language, encouraged the city to join in the French-inspired music festival held annually on June 21, the same day as the summer solstice. Sacramento obliged, and hosted its first Fête de la Musique on Saturday.
“Fête de la Musique’s origins began in France,” said Beatrice Hildebrand, executive director of Alliance Française de Sacramento. “It is a yearly event in Europe. It’s a global celebration of music, and it’s a good way for musicians to show their skills. People play music in the streets and on sidewalks.”
Spontaneous music could be heard in Sacramento, like at R5 Records on 16th Street and Broadway. R5 Records participated in Fête de la Musique by setting up chairs and providing an open mic outside its doors. The store encouraged people like amateur musician Tony Silva to grab his instrument and share his music with the audience.
“I forgot the lyrics,” Silva sang melodically toward the end of his Johnny Cash cover.
However, Silva did not seem fazed by his stumble.
“I like music,” Silva said. “I came out with my guitar and it’s very important to play music.”
The festival was created by a French official who thought it was important to further promote music after he saw a study claiming that half of all French children could play an instrument. Inspired by this fact, the French official worked to establish the first Fête de la Musique in 1982.
The event is set aside for musicians to perform impromptu jam fests along the sidewalks. Beside sidewalks, professional and amateur musicians play concerts organized in civic centers and parks in cities.
Hildebrand says that the Fête de la Musique is popular in cities in Western Europe, especially in Berlin. But the festival has crossed the Atlantic and has woven itself into other cultures, reaching other cities such as Tel Aviv and Manila.
Alliance Française de Sacramento has hosted several private concerts for Fête de la Musique at their headquarters for the past few years. However, Hildebrand says this year’s festival in Sacramento mirrors the true spirit of Fête de la Musique.
“It’s on the scale of France,” Hildebrand said. “Musicians play classical or jazz for free. We wanted to get people on the streets celebrating. It’s a spontaneous event.”
Though it was Alliance Française de Sacramento’s idea, there was no structure to Sacramento’s Fête de la Musique. Participants were able to sign up to participate on the website, pledging to take over a street and perform for others.
“There is a guerilla aspect to the Fête de la Musique,” said Steve Nikkel, an employee of R5 Records.
Nikkel said he enjoyed the spontaneity of the day-long festival and feels gratified in hearing the free music.
“I saw some kid on the highway playing music on a wall. That is the ultimate expression for playing music.”
JACKSON YAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.