“Jazz is a universal language” says Director-General Irina Bokova at the International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert in Paris

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©N.Houguenade/UNESCO

Speaking to a packed auditorium at the Global Jazz Day concert in Paris, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said that jazz crosses all borders and links all generations. She recalled that UNESCO created International Jazz Day in 2011 to honor one of the most ground-breaking cultural expressions of the 20th century, music at its most creative, most free.

“Young women and men, today, need new tools of peace that speak to the heart. This is UNESCO’s role, to help them make the most of humanity’s great diversity, on the basis of human rights, on the basis of respect, to fight all forms of hatred and discrimination”, she stated. 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated Ms. Bokova’s message by saying: “Jazz carries meaning for all societies, and crosses all borders; it brings people together, around shared aspirations for freedom, around common dreams of dignity and rights”. 

At the conclusion of the concert, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador  Herbie Hancock announced that the main concert for the 2016 International Jazz Day will be hosted by Barack and Michelle Obama at the White House.

The Paris concert was the culmination of International Jazz Day 2015.  It brought together more than two-dozen renowned artists and personalities on one stage in celebration of jazz and cultural diplomacy and featured performances by A Bu, John Beasley (Musical Director), Dee Dee Bridgewater,  Til Bronner, Igor Butman, Terri Lyne Carrington, Mino Cinelu, Avishai Cohen, Eliane Elias, Antonio Farao, Kenny Garrett,  James Genus, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Femi Kuti, Annie Lennox, Gregoire Maret, Hugh Masekela, Marcus Miller, Guillaume Perret, Rudy Perez, Dianne Reeves, Lee Ritenour, Claudio Roditi, Isfar Sarabski, Wayne Shorter,  Ben Williams and Dhafer Youssef.  The concert was streamed live worldwide via the UNESCO, U.S. Department of State, JazzDay.com and Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz websites.  

This Year’s Jazz Day in Paris included a series of jazz education programs, performances, and community outreach from morning to evening, free and open to the public in Paris. With more than 70 events in all 20 arrondissements, visitors and residents had opportunities to experience an array of workshops, master classes, jam sessions, roundtable and panel discussions, lectures, mini-concerts, film screenings and more as virtually every corner of their city comes alive with the sounds and sights of jazz. Special efforts were made to maximize social inclusion and involve those who do not often have access to live music, including the disabled, the ill, the economically disadvantaged and the elderly.

Some highlights from events around the world on International Jazz Day – 30 April - included: 

  • Organizers in The Hague hosted a concert with the theme “Jazz for Syria” to raise awareness and support for Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq and Syria. 
  • In New Orleans, multiple Grammy Award-winning artists Terence Blanchard and Poncho Sanchez hosted a jazz brunch at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The public was invited to enjoy a free concert on the steps of NOMA which was followed by a second line parade from NOMA, along the grand boulevard of Esplanade Avenue, to the gates of the New Orleans Fair Grounds which hosts the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. 
  • In the Dominican Republic events took place in Sosua, Cabarete and Santo Domingo, focusing on educational programming and outreach to poor and underserved communities. 
  • In Johannesburg, South Africa, organizers presented a daylong series of performances, workshops, seminars and other educational programs including “Changing South African Educational Outcomes through Jazz Education.” 
  • A radio station in Bhutan played jazz and open the phone lines for call-in questions about International Jazz Day. 
  • UN workers in Yangon, Myanmar curated a concert and daytime education program for local students with a visiting international artist. 
  • The Jazz Orchestra Hualpén Big Band in Concepción, Chile sponsored a master class followed by a concert and open jam session. 
  • In Phoenix, Arizona, USA, this year's downtown CityScape Phoenix celebration has expanded to  kick-off International Jazz Day event at ASU Kerr Cultural Center with Azar Lawrence and Nicholas Payton to raise funds for Next Student Academy.  "With music on their mind, there is no time for crime" is the motto/slogan and focuses on reducing crime and the drop-out rate.  
  • And across Afghanistan, lectures on Jazz took place in 20 libraries along with special radio programs and community events.  

Similar programs are taking place in 185 countries on every continent. Presented each year on April 30th in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, International Jazz Day encourages and highlights intercultural dialogue and understanding through jazz, uniting people in all corners of the globe. Ultimately, it seeks to foster intercultural dialogue and raise public awareness about the role of jazz music in promoting the universal values of UNESCO’s mandate. As a language of freedom, jazz promotes social inclusion, enhancing understanding, tolerance and nurturing creativity.