The United Nations today celebrate the first annual International Jazz Day which seeks to spotlight the historic influence the jazz music genre has had in connecting people and igniting social change.
“Jazz makes the most of the world’s diversity, effortlessly crossing borders and bringing people together,” said the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova. “From its roots in slavery, this music has raised a passionate voice against all forms of oppression. It speaks a language of freedom that is meaningful to all cultures.”
Born in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, jazz is rooted in African traditions, draws from European musical forms, and has evolved into various styles across the globe.
At the UNESCO General Conference in November last year, the international community proclaimed 30 April as International Jazz Day, with the intention of raising awareness in the international community of the virtues of jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.
Herbie Hancock, the legendary American jazz pianist and composer, is the force behind UNESCO’s International Jazz Day. Asked what were the values of jazz, Mr. Hancock said: “Living in the moment, working together and, especially, respecting others. Music, and jazz in particular, is an international language that represents freedom because of its origin—growing out of slavery.”
Some of the biggest names of jazz have celebrated the international day with concerts in Paris, New Orleans and New York, and others will be held in more than 100 cities around the world including Moscow, Muscat, Havana, and Yerevan.
In New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, UN Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock was joined by other jazz luminaries in a performance in Congo Square at sunrise. Students and schools from around the world have been invited to play the song “Watermelon Man” along with Mr. Hancock and upload their performances online through YouTube.
Tonight on the international day, UNESCO, along with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, will host a concert at UN Headquarters which will feature an all-star cast of performers, among them Tony Bennett, Chaka Khan, Angélique Kidjo and Romero Lubambo, as well as Mr. Hancock. Co-hosts include actors Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Quincy Jones. Both concerts will be broadcast live on the UN's YouTube page and will be available to the public.
Why International Jazz Day?
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