Jazz lovers were not surprised to learn that the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) had selected Havana as the Global Host City for this year’s International Jazz Day celebrations, due to its rich and vibrant jazz movement.
The UNESCO General Conference proclaimed April 30 International Jazz Day in 2011, and the first global celebration was held at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, in 2012, followed by Istanbul in 2013; Osaka in 2014; Paris in 2015; and Washington in 2016.
AN EXCEPTIONAL COMBINATION
Katherine Müller, director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, revealed that Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés, one of the all-time jazz greats, and U.S. pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, will perform the final concert on April 30, to close the activities and celebrations held on the island from April 24.
These two artists share an intense relationship, beyond their joint performances. Each with their own style, they come together to make an exceptional combination, united through jazz.
Details of the arrangements for Havana’s hosting of International Jazz Day, although incomplete, were offered by Müller during a monthly press conference held in the city’s Club Barbarán Pepito’s Bar, organized by the Communications Center of the Ministry of Culture.
The Chucho and Hancock concert, at the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater of Havana, “will include a live broadcast to over 196 countries, where the Day will also be celebrated with their own jazz, in defense of good music, peace and the unity of the peoples,” Müller announced.
Recalling that this is the sixth edition of the event, the UNESCO official stressed that the celebrations in Havana will be of a different nature, since “each Cuban jazz musician will be accompanied by an international musician during his or her performance, fusing their music with typical instruments of the region.”
UNESCO plays an important role in promoting culture as a means of uniting people, allowing us to enjoy other cultures, Müller added, noting that jazz, as a musical genre, is a universal language that transcends boundaries.
She expressed her pride at having been appointed for the UNESCO Regional Office post in Havana a year ago, explaining that this “was the first office to be created in 1948.”
Regarding relations with this global organization, Oscar León, president of the Cuban National Commission for UNESCO, emphasized that the island has been a member for 70 years and its selection as host “corresponds to the multiple contributions it has made in all branches, including music.”
Meanwhile, Natacha García, Communications director of the Cuban Music Institute, spoke of the strong contemporary Cuban jazz movement and referred to the JoJazz Competition and the International Jazz Plaza Festival, which feature international artists of the highest quality (figures like Dizzy Gillespi and Wynton Marsalis).
She noted that in addition to the concert at the Grand Theater, another big show will be held at the Mella Theater, and explained that educational activities, focused on jazz and its latest trends, will be carried out in schools, universities and other spaces.
International Jazz Day is organized by UNESCO, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and Herbie Hancock, who will be joined in Cuba by the Ministry of Culture and its Cuban Music Institute.
The Monk Institute, created in honor of Thelonious Monk (1917-1982), one of the most influential figures in jazz history, with the quartet that bears his name and more than 70 classic compositions, will bring a group of its students to Havana to exchange with Cuban music schools, Müller revealed, while refraining from offering further details, as “the international guests will be announced on April 24th.”
Hancock, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, wrote in one of the calls to celebrate International Jazz Day: “Music has always served as a bridge between different cultures, and no musical art form is more effective as a diplomatic tool than jazz.”
Music is a Cuban passion, and the island’s jazz movement has excellent instrumentalists who from April 24-30 will shine during this Havana festival of jazz.