International Jazz Day proves to be a global movement

Washington, DC 30 April – The fifth annual International Jazz Day celebration came to a thrilling close on Saturday night with the worldwide broadcast and streaming of the International Jazz Day 2016 All-Star Global Concert from the White House, which occurred Friday night and was hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and featured dozens of world-renowned musicians performing in a temporary auditorium built on the South Lawn. The concert was aired as a one-hour primetime network television special in the United States (ABC) and streamed in its entirety around the world through the United Nations and UNESCO and Jazz Day websites. In addition, thousands of International Jazz Day performances and education programs paying tribute to jazz were presented in the Global Host City, Washington, DC, and in nearly every country around the world.

It was, however, Saturday morning when International Jazz Day was launched in one Washington’s iconic locations that is often home to planned and spontaneous cultural events and activities. Joined by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock and International Rescue Committee President David Miliband, Director-General Bokova spoke to the important roll jazz can play in turbulent times. “We need the power of jazz today to bring people together in societies that are increasingly diverse, where intolerance is growing, where violent extremism is on the rise.

The Director-General and her Jazz Day co-chair Herbie Hancock were joined later in the day by South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela and the former Minister of Justice of France, Christiane Taubira, for a lively discussion on jazz, human rights and cultural diplomacy at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, as part of its Jazz Appreciation Month activities. Mr. Hancock said jazz plays a dual role. “It not only states what your pains are,” he said, “but also your hopes for the future.”

Ms. Bokova said jazz transcends ideological and national borders. “Nowadays when we speak about jazz, we think of freedom, of reaching beyond boundaries, on the power of creativity and music for people to connect. Jazz is about freedom about rights and dignity."

Former Minister Taubira saw jazz as the platform for peace. “But peace is not peaceful,” she said, adding, “You have to fight for that.”

Coordinated each year by UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, International Jazz Day highlights the power of jazz as a force for freedom and creativity, promotes intercultural dialogue through respect and understanding, and unites people from all corners of the globe. The day is recognized on the official calendars of UNESCO and the United Nations.

Beyond Washington, D.C., an enormous range of jazz performances and programs took places near and far. In Yerevan, Armenia, the Armenian State Jazz Big Band played jazz standards, while in New Zealand, the University of Auckland held a lecture exploring the city’s jazz heritage. Lagos, Nigeria presented Satchmo’s Jazz & Cultural Festival Lagos, while Puerto Rico’s Jazz and Bossa Radio featured special programming dedicated to International Jazz Day. More than 30 venues across South Korea participated in Korea Jazz Club Day, and JAZZ.Brussels organized a joyous jazz parade in the streets of downtown Brussels.