Fête de la Musique 2011

Every year, the French welcome summer with music. On June 21, the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, amateur and professional musicians offer free performances in public places. This music day, known as la Fête de la Musique, allows the public to discover new styles of music, popularize obscure genres and even help young people from all social backgrounds enjoy a free concert by one of their favourite international band. I remember attending a free performance by Lenny Kravitz Place de la Republique back in 2002…  Above all la Fête de la Musique is an opportunity for people to communicate and share a special moment through music. In Washington DC, the French community also celebrates music, though not necessarily on the 21st.

The program in DC hasn’t really changed in the past few years, with the usual suspects, L’alliance Francaise and La Maison Française organizing the two biggest events much like

they have every year for the past few years… L’alliance Francaise kicks off the celebration
on Friday, June 17th with 6 hours of musical programming, some of them family friendly.
The next day, the French Embassy opens up its garden for a fun soiree filled with music,
drinks and food. Last year I wrote at length about the merguez. They’ll still be there and
they will still be tasty. The real fun stuff, I’m afraid, will be in New York, which is gearing
up for its 5th Fête de la Musique with a big free concert in Central Park. It’s a lot harder for me to keep up with who’s hot and who’s not on the French music scene since I live
in the US. I have access to French iTunes, which is helpful, and I listen to French radio
stations online too, but I also rely on on some French twitterers and bloggers based in
Cheeseland and I was thrilled to hear he would be performing in the big apple for la
Fête de la Musique. Also performing is Catherine Ringer of Rita Mitsouko fame, which I
think is I kinda cool. But since I can’t make it to New York that weekend, I guess you
can expect to see me at the French Embassy. And I’m looking forward to it. The fact
that we, as a country, appreciate the musical arts in all their incarnations, enough to
dedicate a full day to celebrating them, is one of the many, many reasons I am so proud
to be French.
The program for La Fete de la Musique 2011 at l’Alliance Francaise
** La Fête de la Musique @ SummerStage is located at Rumsey Playfield, in New York’s Central Park (enter park at East 72nd street) on Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 7 pm (free). Ben L’Oncle Soul and Catherine Ringer will take the stage and there will also be a showing of  “Gainsbourg and his Girls,” a documentary on (yes, him again) Serge Gainsbourg, seen through the eyes of his many muses.**
** La Fête de la Musique at L’alliance Francaise is June 17th, 2011. 5:30-6:30PM is the children’s program, followed by an open stage and tribute to local musicians until 10PM (free) and then a DJ will close the night until 11:30PM. L’alliance Francaise is located at 2142 Wyoming Avenue NW. ** 
** La Maison Françaisecelebrates La Fête de la Musique on June 18th, 4PM-12AM. Admission $8, free for children under 10. La Maison Françaiseis located at the French Embassy, 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW**

Jazz on the Green

If you’re tired of the scene at Jazz in the Sculpture Garden (been there done that) there are a few alternative for you for free jazz this weekend. The first one is actually indoors, which given the temperatures that we have been treated to these past few days, might actually be a welcome break from the heat. This Thursday being the third Thursday of the month, The Kogod Courtyard at the Smithsonian American Art Museum is hosting Take Five at the Smithsonian from 5 to 8. There will be live jazz as well as a cash bar, and you’ll be able to check out the art while you’re at it. Otherwise on Friday, The Friends of Bundy Park are throwing the 1st Jazz on the Green at Bundy. The event, slated to run from 6:30 to 8:30, will feature the Brazilian music of the DC Choro Ensemble. Refreshments will be available from local merchants.

Never heard of Bundy Park? Well, that’s probably because it’s not really a Park… Bundy Park is more of an empty plot of grass located at 420 P Street NW and currently used by KIPP and other sports teams. The non-profit Safe Shore is scheduled to move into the former Bundy School and some residents of Shaw and Mount Vernon Square are pushing to have some of the adjacent parking lot turned into a dog park to make the neighbourhood more attractive for families and their four-legged friends. Jazz on the Green is a great initiative to bring public attention to the space and so I encourage you, especially if you live in the neighbourhod, to consider it as an alternative to Jazz at the Sculpture Garden this Friday.

It’s Like (French) Music to my Ears

I’ve never seen so many French artists in the D.C. papers all at once! That’s probably because so many seem to be in town this weekend!

From jazz chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux (at GWU’s Lisner Auditorium this Saturday) to musical collective Nouvelle Vague (at La Maison Française on Thursday), indie-rock groupe Phoenix (performing to a sold out crowd at Rock and Roll Hotel on Sunday) or former tennis star turned reggae singer Yannick Noah (also at Maison Française but on Friday) there’s a little something Français for everyone.

It’s fitting that French music would take center stage this weekend since Francophiles around the world are celebrating La Fête de la Musique on the 21st. This annual holiday celebrates summer Solstice and promotes music by amateur and professional artists. A number of venue are honouring the holiday, from the obvious Francophile hangouts L’Alliance Francaise on Friday or the French Embassy (with a garden party on Saturday) as well as others such as the Willard Intercontinental Hotel and its restaurant Café du Parc. If you enjoy music in general and French music in particular, brace yourself for a busy musical weekend!

Welcome to Mali!

If you haven’t gotten your tickets to see Amadou & Mariam at The Birchmere yet, there is still time! The Malian husband and wife duo will perform tracks from their world acclaimed albums; “Dimanche a Bamako”, “Journees maliennes” and “Welcome to Mali” on June 10th.

Amadou and Mariam met and fell in love thirty years ago, at Bamako’s Institute for the Young Blind . Their story is a Malian Cinderella story, with Manu Chao as the fairy godmother, proving that love and music can truly change one’s life. The former Mano Negra frontman fell in love with their music and produced album for Universal music, “Dimanche a Bamako” in 2003. After a-25 year musical career in west Africa, they broke onto the international scene with their single “Je pense a toi”, a moving song with captured the heart of audiences in France and around the world. “Dimanche à Bamako” won important critical recognition, scooping the trophy for ‘best world album of the year’ at the Victoires de la Musique Awards on 5 March 2005. Today, they continue to work with the biggest names in music, like Damon Albarn former frontman of Blur, perform to sold out crowds around the world and open concerts for the biggest international groups like Coldplay.

Don’t miss their concert at The Birchmere. The “Blind Couple from Mali” is truly amazing life, spreading their love of life through infectious African beats, beautiful lyrics and the moving voice of Miriam.