Fête de la Musique
Beginning in Paris in 1982 after a suggestion was made by American musician, Joel Cohen and furthered by the then French Cultural Minister, Fête de la Musique has stretched out as a global event taking place in over 100 countries and more than 460 cities worldwide. It is a celebration of music not as a product to be bought and sold, but as a free cultural experience to be enjoyed by all. That was actually what music used to be, but things changed. Every year a theme is decided upon to unite the celebration and provide a thread holding together an even that stretches from Algeria to the UK. 1962 saw the release of the Beatles first album and, to some, the birth of pop music. To honour this, the theme of Fête de la Musique in 2012 is 'pop'.
Speaking with Saliha Lefevre, the director of Alliance Française, I ask whether the final days of organising the event are filled with utter chaos or a sense of calm. “Total chaos was up until last night so at the moment it has all been finalised,” Lefevre laughs. “We have the promotional material so we are able to start distributing that and getting that organised. Everything is pretty well on track right now.”
Considering the event is a global exercise that is essentially independently run by each region, I ask about the process of aligning with the Fête and whether there is any centralised body that manages this mammoth day. “There is an organisation in Paris that looks after this everywhere in the world,” she explains. “So every year, long before the 21st of June, they send us what is going to be the main theme and then they centralise all of the programs that are going to be held all over the world and they put that on the website. There is a federation, if I can call it that.”
Despite the fact the event is free for the public to enjoy and the performers donate their time for free also, it still costs money to put this event on even just considering things like advertisement and insurances. “We are not allowed to make any money out of the concert; it is absolutely free,” she says. “So the idea is to find support from the city that is hosting the event. Being located in the district of Port Phillip, they are helping us with the Port Phillip City Council ‘Through The Local Festivals’ Fund. We have two sources of revenue which is both the fund and our own resources. This is completely part of what we want to do as a part of our cultural programs and the promotion of French concepts in culture but it is also a very important moment for us to promote what we do. We use this huge channel of communication to get through to the public that don’t know what we do here in St Kilda.”
The festival may have been born in France and organised by Alliance Française but the idea is to celebrate the music of each region. The 460 or so cities taking part will be putting their own local focus on the music and bands that they choose to join in the celebration. Despite the fact that it has been difficult for the organisers to find traditional French music within Melbourne, it is also not the aim of the event. While they are promoting the great work of Alliance Française, they aim to be as relevant as possible with regard to the diverse pool of music they were able to pull from. Everyone from The Orbweavers to Kim Salmon will provide a depth of musical variety on the day. “Normally this event is a space for both amateurs and professionals but most of the applications we received were from professionals,” she says. “We managed to select 22 bands out of which more than 70% are professionals. We need to rely on partners that know the groups that we should look at. We managed a new partnership with RRR radio who helped us to select the groups that we have as a part of the concluding concert. For the other groups we simply looked the different venues that are partners with us and looking at the characteristics and specifications of each venue and we tried to match with that. The second objective was to also cover a wide variety of music as well and we have managed to do that.”
Fête de la Musique will be bringing the global celebration of free live music to the City Of Port Phillip on Thursday June 21 at St Kilda Library, Readings Bookshop, Australian National Academy Of Music, Dogs Bar and The Alliance Française.
BY KRISSI WEISS