Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Fête de la Musique

Celebrations throughout Europe during the next couple of days will vary from country to country but all are linked to some extent with the summer solstice or equinox. The Swedes set out to enjoy themselves on the 23rd in a typically Nordic fashion with phallic maypoles and as much Bacchanalian revelry as good Puritanism will allow. The Danes and Norwegians do something similar by lighting bonfires and burning the effigy of a witch.

The British, finding little to celebrate - having done with their seasonal ritualistic burning in November - blunder through midsummer more or less unaware, with the exception of a few druids and new-age pagans who attempt a pilgrimage to Stonehenge, only to be thwarted by the Somerset Police.

France, (as well as Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and others), celebrates midsummer’s eve with the Fête de la Musique, one colossal music festival featuring every imaginable musical genre; all free, thanks to the French government.

Organised concerts in churches, museums, cultural centres, jazz clubs, parks and gardens, courtyards and bars are matched by an equal number of spontaneous events taking place on just about every street corner. Each year the Orchestre Nationale de France gives a concert in the Musée du Louvre. This year it's Dvorak’s New World Symphony under the direction of Kurt Masur. Those not fortunate enough to be in the area can listen in live on Radio France Musique.

One of the most interesting world music attractions will be Iran’s Bakhtiari Band, a group of nomads from Farsan, Chaharmahal-o Bakhtiari Province in Northwestern Iran.

The Bakhtiari tribe who make their annual 200-mile trek from the high summer pastures to low winter pastures by crossing the 12,000 ft pass in the Zagros Mountains were the subject of the first ever feature length documentary film, Grass: A Nation’s Battle for Life, made in 1925.

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