A French feeling - for free

World Music Day will be marked in 100 countries, bringing song to the streets.

eclectic french 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
eclectic french 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Time to get your beret out, place a string of onions around your neck and pull on a stripy T-shirt this Sunday when Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Nazareth join in the Fête de la Musique - or French World Music Day - celebrated across the globe. While the aforementioned French caricature paraphernalia may be a bit outmoded, the relevant musical accouterment will certainly be in high profile, evidenced in a merry, musical free-for-all. The idea of Fête de la Musique was conceived in 1981 by French music and dance director Maurice Fleuret, at the behest of then-minister of culture Jack Lang. The debut fest took place the following year and has now spread around the world. This year, the event will be marked in over 100 countries on five continents, and it will help to promote French culture and music internationally. And one of the provisos for sanctioning Fête de la Musique shows is that they must all be free to the public. Here, Israeli and French bands will perform at various venues across the aforementioned cities. For example, in Jerusalem, the fun starts at 6 p.m. at the Bezalel-Schatz pedestrian walkway, with Israeli rockers The Giraffes, eclectic French outfit Elzef, jazz foursome the Emile Parisien Quartet, Israeli African-style based percussion ensemble Tamtam and the irrepressible 11-piece Balkan Bamahsan gypsy music gang. The capital's celebrations are being held under the auspices of the Romain Gary French Cultural Center and its director, M. Olivier Debray. If Elzef is anything to go by, the local French Music Day organizers are clearly keen to convey something of the gaiety of the Gallic spirit. The band has been dubbed "unclassifiable" and has been described as a mixture of "brass played with the punk energy of the Pogues, the quirky electronica of Matt Herbert and the burlesque of Tom Waits." Season that with "rapid mood swings" and "subversive, surrealist humor" and you get some idea of the maelstrom of colors, sounds and rhythms that will be on show here on Sunday evening. Elzef will also perform in Jericho, Nablus and Ramallah. The Emile Parisien Quartet is somewhat more orthodox, and incorporates clear bluesy and modern jazz elements in its output. But leader saxophonist Parisien and his cohorts add distinctively more contemporary energies and textures. Like Elzef, the quartet is not short on energy or unapologetic enthusiasm. Tamtam, meanwhile, offers something more tribal in nature and mixes a variety of percussion instruments and rhythms with African dance forms, singing and storytelling. Besides the shenanigans at the Bezalel-Schatz pedestrian mall, Fête de la Musique entertainment will be on offer at various venues across the capital, including Mess at Uganda, Assaf Reiskand at Ta'amon, TV Buddhas and Strawberry Jams 7 at Taklit, the Tomer Cohen Trio at the Marakia and the Gil Stein Trio at Birman. Just a word of caution for any city center dwellers looking to get an early night on Sunday: One of the original declared cultural fringe benefits of Fête de la Musique events in France was to allow musicians to play all night without worrying about the neighbors calling the police. So, make sure you get your 40-plus winks on Shabbat and let it all hang out on Sunday night. For more information: www.ccfgary-jerusalem.org