One of France's biggest street parties is back in full force after two years of Covid disruption -- the annual Fete de la Musique returns to towns and cities across the country Tuesday night, boasting everything from classical to rap.

Musicians have free reign every year on June 21 in France, taking over bars, street corners and rooftops, while landmarks from the Eiffel Tower to the old port in Marseilles to chateaux in the Loire Valley host their own events.

Since 2018, President Emmanuel Macron has even thrown open the courtyard of the Elysee Palace to the festivities.

This year, which marks the festival's 40th anniversary, Ukrainian DJ Xenia will be among those performing in the Elysee courtyard, where the president normally greets visiting heads of state.

It remains to be seen whether Macron and his wife Brigitte will be in the mood for dancing -- as they have in previous years -- after disappointing election results for his camp over the weekend.

But many across France are no doubt ready to celebrate after the last two editions of the festival took place under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

- 'We were worried' -

It has been four decades since the first Fete de la Musique was launched by the then culture minister Jack Lang, appointed by Socialist president Francois Mitterand a year earlier in 1981.

Since then, it has been exported to cities and countries across the world including Berlin, Brussels, New York, Canberra and Lagos.

But Lang still recalls the terror he felt in the days leading up to the inaugural event.

"We told people: 'Go, go out, take over the streets with music,'" he told AFP.

"We were worried they would just stay stuck indoors -- but it worked!"

Lang, stage-designer Christian Dupavillon and musician and festival organiser Maurice Fleuret dreamed up the event together -- and it was Fleuret who came up with the slogan: "Music will be everywhere and concerts nowhere".


Jack Lang with first lady Danielle Mitterrand at the first Fete de la Musique in 1982 / © AFP

"The first year, in 1982, it was not a great success, but people played along -- and then from 1983, it really got going," said Lang, who now heads the Arab World Institute in Paris.

Lang said he wanted this year's event to be dedicated to Steve Maia Canico, a young man who died after falling into the river Loire in Nantes, as police broke up a party that had run past the 4:00 am limit.

The incident has become the focus of a bitter dispute between those who blame the police for Canico's death and the authorities who have defended their actions that night.

For the most part, however, the festival remains a much-loved excuse to party -- even if some folk expected at work the next morning grumble about the lack of sleep.