Happy World Music Day, y’all! Or, Fête de la Musique, as they call it in some places that George Bush can’t find on a map.
Oh stop! Leave him alone already, I can hear my conservative friends moan. Well, there are two things (at least) wrong with that notion. One, his reckless, feckless family is trying to foist yet another progeny on our still-reeling Bushwhacked nation, so it’s sadly current and relevant. Dogs love them, but never forget just how bad a Bush can be on humans. And two, I was just kidding, of course, about having any conservative friends. Except this one cool dude in Amsterdam, but that’s it.
But I digress, because it’s fun. Know what else is fun? World Music Day! The first day of summer, June 21, and it’s coming again to Santa Monica. If we all make it happen.
What in the world is it? It’s a day celebrating music in all its forms, by playing it and listening to it live. They’ll be line dancing in Lebanon, partying in Peru, boogalooin’ in Bosnia, clogging in Cambodia and moshing in Morocco, on the same day all over the world. People think of concerts as being indoors, but amateur and professional musicians of all ages are encouraged to perform in the streets (and on sidewalks, plazas, cemeteries, parks and gardens), making all genres of music accessible to the public, everywhere, on this one day, for free. What a great idea!
The global celebration started in France in 1982, ignited by a study that year that revealed that fully half of all French children played an instrument, and it was immediately declared a national holiday. The French are so impetuous. It has since spread to more than 700 cities in 110 countries.
It hit American shores — um, three years ago. What?! That’s embarrassing, that it took 30 years for us to embrace it. The country that invented blues and jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, and that insinuates our tunes on the whole planet, still gives music in our culture short shrift, especially with little support from government and schools. For shame.
But, good for Santa Monica! We have also celebrated World Music Day here for three years, though you couldn’t be blamed much if you didn’t notice. Last year, it was limited to Palisades Park (but what a stage backdrop, eh?), with 10 performances between 12:30 and 7 p.m. Recreation and Parks Commissioner Phil Brock jumped in and organized a lot of that, and this year he’s looking to do more.
What can we do? How has our city government responded? According to Brock, “Our city staff has proposed only three performances (all paid with taxpayer dollars) in our new Tongva Park.”
Not even matching the 10 we had last year, while Make Music LA is aiming for 500 performances compared to last year’s 104. Our city staff is choosing to pay three bands, said Brock, instead of putting support money into having many more play, as volunteers. He was told it was too much work to do more than that.
The spirit of the worldwide organization for the festival is that it’s pretty DIY, organized and executed very locally, without government funding (or control), with promotion support from the Make Music volunteer committees.
Brock is proposing, “Each neighborhood organization has a park that could host a community afternoon of music, togetherness and a celebration of each neighborhood’s strength, diversity and the wealth of music in our city.
“I’d like your help to turn [this] into a true neighborhood show of togetherness. Pick a park, the hours you want to participate, gather local musicians and let’s have a great June 21st.
“I can provide more details, have the Make Music LA staff help and, with your assistance, try to twist some arms in City Hall to make this a fun day in each of your neighborhoods. If you think your neighborhood organization would like to be involved e-mail me at CommissionerBrock@gmail.com.”
Brock is, you know, a declared candidate for City Council in the next election, so is this an election season ploy? No. He worked on Santa Monica’s participation in World Music Day the previous two years, and he and I, sharing a love of music, have talked for some time about the possibility that Santa Monica could become known for its ongoing flow of music, outdoors, free, in the parks or wherever. The show “Baywatch” made us more well known worldwide than you probably imagine, but I’d prefer music as our calling card.
The musicians we have on Third Street Promenade have become a welcome image of our little city. Who doesn’t love strolling down the promenade with the strains of live music wafting in and out? If you love what you hear, stay for a spell. If not, just keep moving. That’s great for the tourists, but how about something for the residents? What if everywhere you went in Santa Monica, you might hear music? What if it was never more than a few blocks away? A huge unwanted development going up in your neighborhood could depress the hell out of you; music lifts spirits. Brock told me there are lots of studies proving that.
He said one of his fellow commissioners, Deborah Cohen, is a RAND Corporation expert on parks, and based on those studies, she has been pushing for years for more music, theater, dance and all the arts, available in our city parks. It’s good for everyone, he said, lets people meet their neighbors and feel good about their neighborhoods.
We’re hardly Music City/Nashville, but we could become known as “A Music City.” We have the Twilight Concert Series on the pier, we have world-famous music store and concert venue McCabe’s, we have the oldest blues bar in L.A. in Harvelle’s (1931). Sometimes we have the very musical Cirque du Soleil on our beach. We have The Broad Stage, and, God willing, we’ll get our wonderful Santa Monica Civic back, hosting more landmark concerts. We’ve got the climate, we have a cornucopia of artists here — too bad we don’t have a city staff that’s willing to support it.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 28 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.