30.04.2012 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

Jazz is helping your own people to grow and move

©Mariano AbelloMariano Abello, Founder of the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory

In November 2011, during the UNESCO General Conference, 30 April was declared as "International Jazz Day". The Day is intended to raise awareness of the virtues of jazz as an educational tool and a force for positive social transformation . On the occasion of the first celebration of the International Jazz Day, UNESCO interviews Mariano Abello, founder director of the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory.

UNESCO: Could you briefly describe the jazz scene in Nepal today? 

Mariano Abello: 4 years back I was answering to this question as ‘still a baby’ and now I can say that it’s making its first steps, already walking! It is not because I am the founder director of the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory but I think the institution had a big role to make this happening.  There was something missing and it was a proper music education, which KJC is providing.  I always say that jazz has a great future in KTM and will keep growing.  One of the great things that is facilitating this is that KTM has a lot of live music around.


UNESCO Where do the jazz musicians performing herein Nepal come from?  Are there mostly from Nepali musicians or do they come from other countries?

Mariano Abello: Mostly from Nepal and mostly from KTM.  There are, of course, foreigners coming, but most of them are from Nepal, which it is great and actually they are coming very strong, great players.


UNESCO: Nepal has a very rich traditional music.  Are there any projects of fusion of these traditions with modern jazz? 

Mariano Abello: Yes there are and as a matter of fact I do have a group that does it, UrJazz.  The group mixes jazz, Nepali, Hindustani and flamenco.  The good thing about Nepal is that all the music still is learnt orally, so students do not use many books.  This forces the student to have a very good musical ear and, since they can hear very good, they are interested in new sounds.


UNESCO: Jazz has been labelled as a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.  How do you see this in the context of Nepal? 

Mariano Abello: I think all music can be labelled as this.  What jazz has is a fun factor and that it is not for everyone, you really have to be open or a musician to be interested in jazz and the reason is because it is not an easy listening music.  Most of the people will classify it as ‘noise’, and actually it is composing on the spot.

Jazz was born by chance, not intentionally, in the US and extended all over the world because it is easy to mix with the music of different places, because it is very open.

Peace: jazz has a freedom from dispute, you cannot play it while you are fighting musically with other members of the band.

Unity: it unities the group to have a better understanding, to have fun.

Dialogue: definitely you have to be able to listen to others in order to play it and this is the first step to have a dialogue. And it is a language that you can talk to many people.

Cooperation:  music is cooperation, you need the audience, other band members and if you cooperate (listen to others, responding to what others say, supporting others) then you succeed as a band.  If I’m playing a solo (the composing on the spot moment), I need the other band members to support me, to cooperate with my ideas, whatever they are, cause it is my turn to speak, they will have theirs and will be supported as well.


UNESCO: How is the Jazz Conservatory functioning?  Do you have any governmental support? 

Mariano Abello: The jazz conservatory started from a friendship between a Nepali musician and a Spanish musician 5 years ago.  Is one of the most wonderful things that happened in my life.  It is working because there is a lot of love and passion on it.  Seeing how the people responded makes you keep pushing against all the odds. Right now the conservatory has over 300 students and 22 faculty, we provide a good amount of scholarships, teacher training, eastern and western music programmes and an audio engineer programme. All this was made without a single help from any organization. Of course we had the help of many foreigner musicians and music educators, who came to help us out personally or donated instruments.  But we do not have the help of any embassy or government. So, if we got this far without any governmental help, can you imagine how far we can go if we have it?  And there is a misconception that jazz means US, so helping jazz to grow is letting the US culture to take over, no, is helping your own people to grow and to move ahead.  Governments, if they want their culture to be heard in the world, should support music and arts in general.


More information on International Jazz Day can be found in the link below


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