>>>The Paris sound track
Photo: Elena Dijour / Shutterstock.com

The Paris sound track

Paris has long known how to win over hearts and minds through songs and melodies. And there’s no better time to discover its street musicians than during the annual Fête de la Musique...
ust two years ago, Benjamin Clementine was earning his living by playing piano for commuters at the Place de Clicy Metro station. The songs he honed on the streets of the City of Light won him the Mercury Prize and international fame. And Clementine is far from the only superstar to perform for Parisian pedestrians. From Edith Piaf, who famously went from busking to selling out the historic Olympia theatre, through to modern stars like Zaz or Ben Harper, the quality of the city’s street performers is truly unrivalled.
The stage of the Mecánique Ondulatoire looks much like a cave and the bar decor is garage style with vintage cars and trucks as part of the scenery.
Photo: Matthieu Foucher

In an architectural key

Paris’ passion for music was consolidated in 1995 in La Cité de la Musique development, a complex of buildings including an amphitheatre, music museum, and concert hall in the Park de la Villette offering 250 concerts a year. In 2015 it was renamed Philarmonie de Paris.

It was in 1982 that Paris held the first-ever Fête de la Musique (or Make Music Festival). While it has grown every year ever since, now being held in more than 250 cities across 120 countries, the philosophy remains the same: to fill the summer solstice of 21st June with music, and to promote the “music of everyone for everyone”. All of the artists perform for free, no matter how big or famous they may be, and enthusiastic amateurs are encouraged to join established stars in marking the day. Topping the bill this year on the streets of Paris are the likes of Bénabar, Ibrahim Maalouf and Yannick Noah.
But this is just one day of music in Paris. Right throughout the year, the city rocks to fresh and exciting sounds. It might be the latest reggae star, Vanupie, playing on the corner by Châtelet station, or some future talent waiting to be discovered in the many live music cafés dotted throughout the city. It could be more established artists taking to the stage in more intimate venues, the Café de la Danse, Le Divan du Monde or La Boule Noire. Or, alternatively, in the undisputed temples of music where international stars record their albums live. And that’s not forgetting Pop In and La Mécanique Ondulatoire in Bastille, venues that have dominated the pop and rock scene in recent years. The list is really is never-ending.
On weekends, the Philarmonie de Paris offers a programme of musical activities for the whole family.
Photo: © William Beaucardet / Philharmonie de Paris
And, if you want to enjoy some music in the fresh air, you are similarly spoiled for choice. In the splendid Parc Floral de Paris in the Bois de Vincennes, you can round off a stroll through the picturesque gardens with one of the concerts held every three days. Or head to the Museo de Quai Branly gardens, with their not-to-be-missed Electronic Siestas, held between 25th June and 31st August.
Iggy Pop and Massive Attack will headline the next Rock on the Seine Festival.
Photo: Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com
As well as its love of the modern, Paris is not without nostalgia for artists who are no longer with us. Edith Piaf is remembered with a museum in the centre of Belleville. Founded by an admirer, the museum houses personal objects in the very apartment in which Piaf herself lived during 1933. Serge Gainsbourg’s house is not open to the public, but many music lovers visit it and continue to stuff empty Gitanes packets between the bars of the door. Another place of pilgrimage is Jim Morrison’s grave in Père-Lachaise cemetery. Every day sees fans turn up to leave books, records, photos or to sing a song of his to his memory. As such graveside performances show, in Paris, street music really can be heard in the most unlikely places.

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