Spring of jazz in Osaka

Chris Gladis / CC BY-ND 3.0
Osaka Castle

After Paris and Istanbul, Osaka (Japan) was chosen as the host city for the third International Jazz Day, celebrated on April 30th, 2014. Much more than just a musical genre, jazz is a witness and a protagonist of modern history.

For UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova "it is a lifestyle and a tool for dialogue, even social change". In partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (TMIJ), International Jazz Day was adopted in 2011 by UNESCO Member States on the initiative of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, in order to build bridges between cultures and societies through dialogue and mutual understanding.

Born in the African-American community, today jazz belongs to the entire world. In the 1920s and 1930s jazz enjoyed astounding success throughout the United States, especially thanks to Louis Armstrong, a native of New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. It was during that period that jazz won over the other continents. "Cultural influences and musical interactions forge links between cultures beyond borders and oceans," said the Director-General in her message on the occasion of International Jazz Day.

It was precisely in Osaka that Japan’s first jazz café opened in 1933. Against a backdrop of gradual opening to the West, this musical genre has found its way into large Japanese cities without, however, overshadowing Japan’s "Jazz Mecca", Osaka. While Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra shared the American song repertoire, Japanese artists took American songs and adapted them to their own language and culture. Improvisation - key to the art of jazz - encourages the blending of music, making jazz the common language that unites people.

Indeed, music is a door to universality: several thousand languages ​​are spoken in the world, but only seven notes are the basis of all musical compositions. In addition to the thirty international artists present at the concert, (broadcast live on the UNESCO website) sixteen musical and educational activities will be held during the day on April 30th at the Osaka School of Music, including a conference on the unique history of jazz in Osaka, as well as discussion on the values ​​of jazz, particularly in times of war.

Juan Guivin, the organizer of an event in the Dominican Republic, agrees: "We celebrate this day because we have a responsibility to show our community the beauty of this musical genre, as well as its message of unity and peace. Music is the best way to get closer to others". Indeed, culture embodies the values ​​and the identity of peoples.

Hannibal Saad, who is preparing an event called "Jazz for Syria" with three simultaneous concerts in Lebanon, Jordan and the Netherlands, has added: "Jazz is a language that knows no bounds. [ ... ] I hope that this international gathering by virtue of this marvelous art form will bring more joy and peace to people around the world. Collective participation brings more energy to the defense of a good cause". Culture protects, repairs, regenerates.

Nelson Gonzales sets up an event in his coffeehouse in the Philippines and recalls the universal aspiration for freedom, of which jazz is a synonym. The performance of the legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter on this occasion will also be broadcast live on our website. According to Shorter, music draws its richness from its transversality: literature, philosophical concepts, quantum physics, astrophysics and other subjects inspire his vision of music and the arts.

195 UNESCO Member States will join the celebration. For the third consecutive year the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz collaborates with UNESCO, its field offices and its National commissions, its networks, associated schools, universities and institutes, public radio and television stations, as well as NGOs to ensure the commitment of these entities to International Jazz Day 2014.

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