Connecting through the power of music with Fête de la Musique

Fête de la Musique has grown from its small beginnings to become a global phenomenon.

Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai will host Fête de la Musique. Karim Sahib / AFP
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Tomorrow thousands of musicians in the UAE will join millions of people around the world in more than 100 countries in a series of free concerts to mark World Music Day. Fête de la Musique is an annual event and Abu Dhabi and Dubai will be joining in the celebrations by showcasing amateur and professional talents across genres, from oriental, jazz and Arabic to Filipino, Latin American and rock. Local participation in both emirates is being organised by the Alliance Française.


The idea originated in 1976 when the American musician Joel Cohen from the France Musique radio station proposed an all-night music celebration during the summer solstice. The concept attracted the attention of the French minister of culture Jack Lang, who in a study of cultural habits had discovered that half of all French children played a musical instrument. He began dreaming of a way of bringing people together and Fête de la Musique was launched in 1982. It has since grown into a global phenomenon.

“Given the immediate success of this popular and spontaneous event, this gathering of professionals and amateurs, with its focus on all kinds of music, was the incarnation of a policy striving to give equal place to amateur musicians, to rock, jazz, singing and traditional music, all of which were given a chance to be heard alongside so-called ‘serious’ music,” says Dominique Chevallier-Wixler, the director of Alliance Française in Dubai.

The message, says Solène Lecommandeur, the cultural manager at French Alliance Abu Dhabi, is that “music is everywhere” and should be free.

In Abu Dhabi

The line-up features 11 bands, including musicians from Bait Al Oud, presented by Sherine Tohamy, the first female soloist graduate from the Arab Oud House in Egypt, and the recently formed UAE-based band World Est, whose seven musicians specialise in jazz, funk, rock, blues and oriental ­music.

Tohamy will present students between the ages of seven and 16 performing oud and piano pieces. “The event is about the importance of participating with others and experiencing different music by talented musicians, as well as collaborations,” she says. “Oud is my life. I always try to explore new techniques and I hope the audience will come away wanting to play the oud.”

Nadim Helal, a member of World Est, says the evening is a perfect time to connect with others. “I’ve participated twice before and the energy is great. Sometimes life here can be business-orientated so this is about seeing the other side of Abu Dhabi,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what your origin, job or background is. It’s about sharing music.”

In Dubai

The evening will take visitors on a journey from East to West featuring Iranian fusion, classical, gypsy jazz, tango and flamenco performed by 15 bands in various locations, including the alleys of the Souk Madinat Jumeirah.

The performers include the Hamami Brothers (Arabic fusion) Gypsy Swing Project (gypsy jazz) Blues Trip (rock and blues) and two special guests flying in from Europe – The Turban Project, where "India meets Morocco" and Mohamed Abozekry and HeeJaz, who mixes oud with jazz, blues and rock.

Abu Dhabi: Souk Qaryat Al Beri, 4pm to 11pm. Dubai: Souk Madinat Jumeirah, 7pm to 10pm. Entrance is free. For more information, visit or