The afternoons in Arles are very sunny, humid, and hot.The cool breezes have passed and you awake tangled in the moisture of the warm, moist air and creamy skies of this Provencal city. Last week, we celebrated the Fete de la Musique (National Music Festival). The festival began at noon, and the streets were immediately closed. EVERYONE took part in this festival. Strolling up and down the steep avenues, we encountered rock bands, acoustic guitarists, and musicians from all over the world. There was also a group of French autistic children, who had formed a band of drummers. They walked up and down the streets of Arles with gentle smiles, as they blessed us with their own awe-inspiring arrangements of Brazilian samba and percussion.
As the sun began to set, we walked along the river and encountered a beautiful Moroccan restaurant. As we approached the doors, we were completely immersed in the veil of spicy aromas, marinated meats, incense, and the smell of fresh bread. We all sat down, and slowly enjoyed the texture and beauty of Moroccan wine, bread, and the rich tastes of North African tajine and pastilla. As the sun disappeared beneath the Rhône, a group of French rastafarians laid beautiful rugs on the floor, and began to play their instruments which appeared to be homemade. The sounds of the African drums echoed off of the walls surrounding the river and the sounds of the soft flute serenaded the steam that rose from our exotic and inviting cuisine. As we walked around the city, we encountered a band from the Comoros Islands (East Africa, Indian Ocean next to Mozambique. Google it!) that played in a narrow alley of Arles.
I’ve never seen so many people appear to be so free and liberated. People of all races attempted to imitated the musicians on stage, with eyes closed and gigantic smiles. Naturally, we joined in. We danced for hours, until we were pushed off the dance floor by a man that was convinced that he was Michael Jackson. Yes, he had white socks and black dress shoes. There were no political messages during the Fete de la Musique, other than the reaffirmation of freedom and liberation. Its is so comforting to see a group of people that are not driven by political correctness or fear during a national festival. Everyone danced, everyone smiled, without fear of ruining their image. This celebration of differences however, wasn’t very representative of what I observed on the Market day.
Ryan Forbes Morris ’08