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Music Festivals

Musical Festivals as a Reflection of Local Culture


Austin City Limits Music Festival

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers perform as part of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park on September 17, 2006 in Austin, Texas.

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Music has the indescribable capability to transcend cultural, social, and language boundaries. One of the best ways to experience a culture is through its music. Music festivals create the perfect opportunity to enjoy music while gaining a deeper understanding of the people that it came from.

Fête de la Musique

Fête de la Musique, also known as “World Music Day”, was first celebrated on the streets of Paris in 1982. For all night and all day on the 21st of June, professional musicians, amateurs, and music lovers of all sorts come together in a perfectly casual celebration of music.

This unique festival showcases beauty in everyday and pedestrian places. During Fête de la Musique, musicians literally take to the streets, music imbibing parks, museums, castles, vessels of public transportation, prisons, and hospitals. All performances are free and open to the public. Amateurs and professionals are not only encouraged to perform side by side, but to exchange ideas and create new music together.

The idea for such a unique and global musical collaboration first came about in 1976 in France. Fête de la Musique was the brainchild of visionary and American musician, Joel Cohen, but it wasn’t until 1982 that his dream became reality when the first Fête de la Musique was held in Paris, France.

Since 1982, World Music Day has more than lived up to its name by thriving at an international level. Today, World Music Day is celebrated on the summer solstice in over 400 cities in over 100 countries, from Paris to Quebec to Kalamazoo.

Fête de la Musique is organized each year in Paris by the French Ministry for Culture. This is extremely appropriate since this music festival accurately reflects several central tenets of French culture, such as a fierce love of art, the importance of finding beauty in everyday places, and a strong belief that art should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age, gender, social, or economic status.

Austin City Limits Music Festival

Austin, Texas hosts one of the music world’s highly regarded music festivals. The Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival takes place each year in Zilker Park, a public green space in the center of the city.

Austin City Limits began humbly as a weekly PBS music performance show in 1974. In 2002, Austin held the first ACL Music Festival, and since then it has never looked back, growing and expanding each year with more and more performers, events, and influence on the modern music scene. 2013’s festival will for the first time be expanded to two weekends instead of one, feature over 130 artists from all over the world, and host an estimated half of a million music fans over the course of the festival.

Like the city of Austin and the original show, the Austin City Limit’s breadth of music has exploded in range. Originally, Austin’s music had consisted of mostly artists with Texan roots, but now has grown to an international musical hotspot of both well-known artists and those who are “up-and-coming.”

Austin is known as “The Live Music Capital of the World,” so it is no wonder how the ACL Music Festival is able to thrive in such a vibrant city. The local culture of Austin is intricately entwined with the ACL Music Festival. Concert goers can taste a city known for its food at the food court of the festival, Austin Eats, a showcase of premium Austin-area restaurants and food businesses.

The city of Austin is also a hotspot and refuge for “starving artists”. These local artisans and vendors display their wares in the ACL Art Market, located in the center of the Zilker Park venue.

In addition, Austin’s famously progressive stance on environmental protection can be seen through numerous environmental initiatives in the festival, for example, ACL Music Festival’s “Rock and Recycle” program. The ACL Music Festival is not only an accurate representation of popular and up-and-coming musicians, but also the culture and people of Austin.

Iceland Airwaves

Iceland Airwaves was founded in 1999 and held its first concert in an old airplane hanger. Festival organizers claim that Iceland Airwaves began simply as a way to get foreign tourists to come to Reykjavik to enjoy a concert, but the festival really took off when organizers decided to shift from a huge grandiose concert to a more casual grassroots festival.

Iceland Airwaves is truly a showcase festival; many cite the festival’s uncanny ability to draw brilliant up-and-coming artists onto their lineup. Truly, the focus of Iceland Airwaves isn’t on who is headlining, but rather those artists who are on the brink of international fame. The official Iceland Airwaves website describes the type of music as “fresh, new, and from all over the place”. While there are many local Icelandic bands, the lineup for Iceland Airwaves is made up of a cornucopia of musicians from all over the world in almost every conceivable type of musical genre.

The geography of Iceland plays a significant role in Iceland Airwaves. For example, one of the venues for Iceland Airwaves takes place in the world-renowned geothermal pool and spa, Blue Lagoon. Attendees are encouraged to venture out and explore the astounding and jaw-dropping splendor of the natural beauty of Iceland’s active volcanoes, lava fields, geothermal pools, fjords, and many other geographical features.

The geography of Iceland also has a huge influence on the music scene of Iceland. As a small Nordic island, Iceland is relatively isolated, resulting in a small and close-knit music scene. Icelandic artists do not feel a need to blend in or assimilate themselves to the rules or expectations of a local music scene. As a result, Icelandic musicians are known for being completely unafraid of pushing convention boundaries into the unknown and unexpected, creating a musical scene unlike any other.

Even though music is only one facet of a culture, it has the ineffable ability to reflect local culture as a whole. This phenomenon is only amplified in a music festival as attendees are treated to a profusion of different artists‘ interpretations and paradigms of the culture that they came from. Music festivals are undoubtedly a cultural experience unlike any other.

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