‘La Fête de la Musique’ and my initiation into flamenco music
Summer celebration of music
21st June is the midsummer solstice, but it’s also the day for music. La Fête de la Musique, aka World Music Day or Make Music Day, is an annual celebration of music and musicians in whatever styles, genres and nationalities. In Spain, it’s called La Fiesta de la Música.
As the name ‘La Fête de la Musique’ suggests, the festivity was originally launched in France on the day of midsummer solstice in 1982 to honour both professional and amateur musicians in the jolly summer mood. Though starting from France, the concept has now spread to over 120 countries, making this an international annual event. In numerous towns and cities there will be thouthands of concerts and gigs in different venues, parks, streets.
A brief history of La Fête de la Musique
You can find local event listings through their official site or some other sources, so I’m not picking specific gigs or artists here to advertise. Instead, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect upon how I started to appreciate flamenco as a music genre, on which I wasn’t particularly keen at first - yes I admit...I didn’t particularly have an interest in it.
My initiation into guitarra flamenca
Having started flamenco dancing rather as a physical exercise, I had little knowledge of flamenco music at first. The only thing I knew was that it usually involved a guitarist. In my very first flamenco dance class, we had an accompanying guitarist every week, but not a singer.
As I developed more interest in flamenco itself, I searched for some CDs to buy (it was such an era when downloads were almost unknown). The first flamenco album I bought was that of Paco Peña, the most famous UK-based flamenco guitarist.
I suppose many of us would describe his style as traditional. As well as sounding somber and profound, I felt that he also delivered a soundscape of warmness and tenderness. It was through the artistry of Paco Peña that I discovered the likability of flamenco music.
Paco Peña - Soleá de Córdoba
My initiation into cante flamenco
Although it didn’t take me long to develop an appetite for flamenco guitar, the singing department was a bit harder to digest. As a novice, I wasn’t familiar with husky voices of certain flamenco singers and their ‘exotic’ singing styles. The importance of cante in the world of flamenco looked good on paper, but it was hard for me to relish the taste, until I encountered La Paquera de Jerez.
Her powerful voice gave me a sensation as if she grabbed my soul and guts at the same time. Apparently she didn’t cater to such a style of comfortable listening, but her singing had a tremendous force to move you, capturing all of your attention. Most importantly, she had an irresistible charm as an artist and her stage presence was not only strong but also somehow adorable. I also fell in love with the unique, crispy guitar sound by her trusted guitarist, Parilla de Jerez.
Listening to Paquera, I gradually got used to the rich flavour of cante flamenco. Flamenco for me was an acquired taste, and I’m glad that I acquired it.
La Paquera de Jerez & Parilla de Jerez - Bulerías
Music as a driving force
La Fête de la Musique is the day to appreciate all sorts of music and musicians. It’s a good opportunity to pay tribute to many artists in different styles, not only flamenco. We could revisit our old favourites or discover new favourites.
The word ‘solstice’ literally means standing still, but music itself, regardless of the genres, doesn’t stand still - it’s a driving force to move us forward. Whether you attend a real local event in a sensible way or do something online from home, enjoy - Vive la fête de la musique!
La Fête de la Musique