A Party for Live and Vibrant Jazz

A Party for Live and Vibrant Jazz
Fecha de publicación: 
3 May 2024
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Seven years ago, on this day, April 30, Havana was the world capital of jazz. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) then made very clear the reasons for celebrating the freest and most expressive of musical styles in the Antillean capital:

«The birthplace of renowned orchestra conductors, such as Mario Bauzá and Frank “Machito” Grillo, Havana and, more generally, the thriving musical culture of Cuba, gave rise to the Afro-Cuban jazz movement, inspired by a prodigious mix of cultures and towns throughout the region. "Cuban jazz is a lesson in creative diversity that resonates in the depths of UNESCO."

Since its proclamation in 2011, International Jazz Day not only seeks to recognize and disseminate the power of jazz, its importance as an artistic expression, but also to promote communication and understanding between cultures through its universal language.

Born in the core of American society in teh late 19th century, jazz has become a symbol of freedom and creativity, a mirror of social and cultural transformations over time. Although it emerged in the African-American communities of the New Orleans region, the city was a diverse scene, so jazz was nourished by multiple influences that included African music, blues, ragtime and European classical music, fusing these elements into a rich and complex musical style.

Thanks to its ability to transmit emotions, improvise and connect with the public, jazz has been a vehicle for integration and the fight against racial and social discrimination. Great figures like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and John Coltrane contributed to popularizing this musical genre and bringing its message of equality and freedom to all parts of the world. The music of these and many other artists not only challenged established norms, but also offered a message of hope and resistance.

World Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians and jazz enthusiasts around the world year after year, to highlight the need to foster intercultural dialogue through music. In this sense, the date not only celebrates creation itself, but also honors those who contribute to its evolution and teaching, ensuring that this artistic form continues to live and renew itself with each generation.

This is an increasingly present challenge in the Cuban school, and I’m not only referring to the artistic education system, where most of the geniuses who today leave the world speechless with their performances have graduated, but to that way of making music that is on the street, in bars, in friends' gatherings, in people's vocations.

Our show man, Bobby Carcassés, founder of a festival as renowned as Jazz Plaza, expressed in an interview that we published in 2017:

«The young jazz movement in Cuba can be seen through the achievements of Jojazz, where the true Cuban talents are revealed, parallel to the talents that exist in the sport such as Stevenson, Juantorena, Sotomayor, Ana Fidelia, natural talents born in Cuba, and the same thing happens in music, we just have to look for them: Bola de Nieve, Rita Montaner, Lecuona, Caturla, Roldán, Benny Moré, in short..., and likewise, those talents are seen in instruments and singing too. There are jazz singers like Zule Guerra, for example, who comes out of that movement, and César López, Yasek Manzano, Michel Herrera, and I can tell you that from all the countries in the world, all the people who come here are surprised by the quality of Cuban musicians, because the Cuban musician is trained in art schools with nothing more than symphonic music, concert music and classical music, he studies jazz and does not study Cuban popular music, however, he masters it at the same time perfectly, because that already comes in the blood and is felt by the people who see us abroad.

And yes, there are young people who go out to try their luck around the world, but so many return to reconnect with Havana in spaces like Jazz Plaza itself; among them, the virtuoso pianist and composer Roberto Fonseca, who confessed to us during the last edition of the event: «I am proud to be the general artistic director of the Festival. "We are ensuring that Cuban jazz continues to give something to talk about and that people get much closer."

Cuban jazz, as Fonseca undoubtedly called it and Bobby confirms: «Of course, if we take into account that the roots are common: the enslaved blacks who went to the United States and merged with the white there and through the spiritual, of the blues gave rise to jazz, and here in Cuba, with the Spanish, the enslaved African, the same thing happened. Our music is infinite and, furthermore, in Cuba there is a lot of jazz tradition.

That, our tradition and, of course, that of New Orleans, where it all began; the chords and notes that keep jazz alive and vibrant in the world, we celebrate this April 30, International Jazz Day.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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