Make Music Harvard Square to Provide Eight Hours of Live Music

Make Music Harvard Square, a street music festival organized by the Harvard Square Business Association and the Québec Delegation, will feature 71 bands on 11 different stages throughout the Square on Saturday.

The fifth annual event, which will bring eight hours of live music to the Square, was inspired by the Fête de la Musique, a street music festival celebrating the summer solstice. Founded in France nearly three decades ago, the Fête has spawned similar events in more than 300 cities across the globe, including Cambridge.

“We wanted to make sure that it’s authentic as it possibly can—it’s an American version of the fête,” said Denise A. Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association.

The festival is co-organized by the Québec Delegation, an organization meant to promote cultural, political, and economic exchange between New England states and Québec. Québecois artists Isabelle Cyr and Yves Marchand will perform in Winthrop Park as part of the festival.

In addition to these artists, the Make Music Harvard Square festival will give listeners the opportunity to hear a wide variety of musical genres. The Harvard Square Business Association’s website lists 18 different styles ranging from classical to grunge, and many of the featured artists have blended or created unique new genres in their work.

Hip-hop artist Larry “Lak” Henderson calls himself a “hip-hop educator,” with his work inspired both by musical figures such as LL Cool J and Rakim and by books that include “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.”

“There’s no other album that you can classify as a hardcore educational hip hop album,” Henderson said of his debut, “Lesson One: Hip-Hop and Education.”

In order to maximize the diversity of music represented, the festival made room for all artists who applied to participate, according to Jillson.

“This is a celebration of music,” she said. “It’s really important to us to ensure that everyone is welcome.”

Artists who have performed at the festival in the past praised the atmosphere of the event, expressing their excitement for this weekend’s concerts.

“You can’t beat playing outside,” said Mick Greenwood of the Self Proclaimed Rockstars. “And you can’t ask for anything more than an audience of people that don’t know you yet—you get the chance to impress them.”

Joe Bourgeois of the Vermont-based alternative rock band Onetothree expressed similar sentiments, saying that being able to draw a crowd from passersby was a fulfilling experience.

Jonathan D. Bojarski, the bandleader of the seven-piece ensemble Sultans of Sax, said that he appreciated how engaged his group’s audience was at previous festivals.

“It turned into an interactive event, which was a lot of fun for both the audience and us,” Bojarski said.

Bands and artists who are new to the Make Music Harvard Square festival said they were attracted by the locale. Henderson, a first-time performer, found the setting appropriate for his distinctive style.

“I wanted to perform at the Harvard Music Festival because of Harvard's rich academic history,” Henderson said. “After all, the President of the United States Barack Obama is a Harvard graduate. It's an ideal crowd for my brand of hip-hop music.”

—Staff writer Petey E. Menz can be reached at