24.02.2014 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

Interview to Danilo Pérez, jazz musician and UNESCO Artist for Peace: "Jazz is a tool for social change”

Danilo Pérez Photo: flickr.com/nationalmuseumofamericanhistory

Born in Panama in 1965, Danilo Pérez’ has influenced contemporary music through his distinctive Pan-American jazz. He currently directs the Berklee Global Jazz Institute at Berklee College of Music (Boston, Massachusetts), and is the President of the Danilo Pérez Foundation which provides outreach music programmes to children living in extreme poverty in Panama. Danilo Pérez is also the Artistic Director for the Panama Jazz Festival. He will open on March 1, 2014 at the Municipal Theatre of Maipú, Chile, the first version of the “Chile Jazz for Peace” festival.

UNESCO Artists for Peace are internationally-renowned personalities who use their influence, charisma and prestige to help promote UNESCO’s message and programmes. UNESCO works with them in order to heighten public awareness regarding key development issues and to inform the public what our Organization's action is in these fields. 

What does it mean to you to be a UNESCO Artist for Peace?
Be an Artist for Peace is a big responsibility. In general, all the work done when you represent UNESCO has a specific goal: to promote peace, intercultural understanding, scientific cooperation and freedom of expression. In my case, I try to work towards these goals with music as a tool.

What role does music can play towards a positive social change?
The role of music in social change is very important. Music defines the character of the events of your life, be it a funeral, a wedding, or a romantic dinner. And on a more massive scale music can define the character of a people, it being a human activity that represents the individual. Through this we can learn values, ethics, teamwork, and raise awareness as you learn to listen to others. Through improvisation you learn to play essential roles in community life such as leadership, in the case when you express your individuality within the group on your own, for example, or the collective work, where you must accompany and work to the other musician sound good.

What is the value attached of this first Festival Jazz for Peace in Chile?
Doing a festival for peace is important to remind us that jazz is a tool of social change that emerged from African American culture and their struggle to cope with the experience of slavery. In our communities it is important to resort to collective healing from the effects of the social changes that have left wounds in the Latin American people. An important feature of jazz is that I can tailor it to the needs of the people and you can be part of a musical community without losing your identity and so strengthen your folk roots. A jazz musician cannot develop without first exploring his life and is certainly a tool that can be used to carry messages of freedom and peace.

As the Art Director mentioned, this festival is inspired by the “Panama Jazz Fest"; will it keep any future connection with the "Chile Jazz for Peace" or other initiatives in Chile?
We will hold our connections with the Chile Jazz Festival for Peace, as this is a product of the overall work and part of an educational curriculum, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, which is made to encourage cultural exchange and human development. Thanks to the Panama Jazz Festival projects have emerged in Costa Rica, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and now in Chile. We Keep in touch with all the projects developed and I'm sure it will grow in Chile and will be very positive.

Briefly, what message would you send to children and teachers and Chile?
To children to study and read a lot, besides practicing music, painting, dance, arts, sports because it teaches us important and necessary in our society values. To the teachers, I urge you to be open; their participation in the life of children is relevant. Furthermore it be creative and remember that education changes individuals who will change the world, that is why they have in their hands a valuable opportunity to improve the future of our countries.

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