While not as widely celebrated in the US, World Music Day was first introduced in France in 1982 and has since been celebrated in over 120 countries all over the world, including Mauritius. It has been the single platform available to me, once a year, if I was picked to perform at school and it was always my favorite day of the year.
Fête de la Musique’s purpose is to promote music in two ways:
Amateur and professional musicians are encouraged to perform in the streets, under the slogan “Faites de la musique” (“make music”, a homophone of Fête de la Musique).
Many free concerts are organized, making all genres of music accessible to the public. Two of the caveats to being sanctioned by the official Fête de la Musique organization in Paris are that all concerts must be free to the public, and all performers donate their time for free. This is true of most participating cities, now, as well.
My first music day celebration was in 1996. I was in grade 3 and I sang “Colors of the Wind” in front of the entire school (~1000 students), acapella. It was the first music day that I had attended as far as I could remember. I don’t know how I got picked but I remember standing in front of the assembly, with the staff standing behind me. As I starting to sing, I heard of the teachers say to her colleague “eh li kone santé do”, meaning “hey, the kid can actually sing”. This was my first taste of performance and my first positive reinforcement. It would light a fire in me that several decades later, is still blazing.
Since then, I would look forward to June 21 every year. It was the one day of the year where I had a chance to perform in front of an audience, if I was lucky enough to get picked. I have played guitar, sung, accompanied other singers, choreographed dance numbers and trained/danced with my newly formed crew — a few enthusiastic friends who had little to no dance experience but were willing to try it out for fun.
Fast forward to a few years to 2003. I just wrote my first song. In fact, I’ve written about 4 or 5. I don’t play guitar yet, so I get a friend to accompany me. I audition to perform at our all-day Music Day concert and get picked. The note accompanying my acceptance said “should encourage her for writing her own material”.
The next year, I played another song I wrote. I’d been playing guitar for a few months at that point and managed to get through the performance. I noticed the incredible difference between playing a cover song and playing my own material. It’s so much more nerve wrecking to play your own material. It felt like an achievement to have been up there, playing and singing something I had come up with out of thin air.
I kept auditioning and playing music every year until I graduated from high school. After my first year of college, I was back in Mauritius for the summer and took an internship. They decided to celebrate music day for the first time at the office and, of course, I was ecstatic about it. Through this, I made friends with a successful local drummer, who encouraged me to register with the local PRO and send my demos to a few people. That resulted in a potential record deal, a single, and eventually a self-produced EP.
For many people, music day is just another festival, just another occasion, just another local festival. For others, it may even be an annoying, noisy street fest. For me, it was the one prized outlet without which my creativity might never have seen the light of day.
Happy World Music Day — Joyeuse Fête de la Musique
Written by Sherry-Lynn Lee