Looking back: International Jazz Day

Today, the world celebrates International Jazz Day. And while we cannot indulge in joyful sounds this year from Safaricom International Jazz Festival, we can still go down memory and enjoy snippets of previous years' performances

30 Apr 2020 . 551 Views

What is it about Jazz that enthralls her followers, which everybody else just doesn’t get? Is it the marvelous improvisation, where no performance is ever the same or the fact that it’s just unlike anything else, requiring almost as much to master as to listen to?

When you hear jazz musicians like George Gershwin say things like “life is like Jazz, its best when you improvise” or Miles Davis saying “I’ll play it and tell you what it is later” then you realize that to listen to jazz is to witness pure self-expression.

Music has the power to raise our fortunes as well as our spirits and this is what the highlight jazz event of the calendar; the Safaricom International Jazz Festival has always been about.

Today, the world marks International Jazz Day, which celebrates and highlights the importance of jazz music and its ability to unite people from different cultures in various parts of the world.

Virtual concert

This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the International Jazz Day celebration will transition from sunny skies and picnic blankets to a virtual global concert that will be streamed live.

Since 2014, the Safaricom International Jazz Festival has been a notable fixture in the Kenyan music calendar as part of the festivities that mark International Jazz Day.

Every year since inception, the festival has brought together a brilliant line up of world renowned jazz artistes, who have headlined the festival, like Richard Bona, Jonathan Butler, Branford Marsalis, David Sanborn, Manu Dibango and Marcus Miller.

This year, the Safaricom Newsroom takes a look back at the Safaricom Jazz Festival over the years.

Hugh Masekela the late jazz maestro described by many as one of the finest horn players in the world, also graced and headlined Safaricom Jazz Lounge in 2016. The Safaricom Jazz Lounge is a music event that is held twice a year in the lead up to the festival.

Not only has Safaricom International Jazz Festival introduced and brought talented jazz musicians from all over the world to Kenya, it has helped to nurture local jazz artistes who have had the opportunity to entertain jazz enthusiasts and share a stage with some of these award winning musicians.

“They have given musicians a platform to showcase their talent, art and skill, not just to Kenya but to the entire world,” said composer and saxophonist Mokua Rabai with Nairobi Horns Project in a previous Safaricom Newsroom interview. Asked about his highest career point, he said “We curtain raised for the late Hugh Masekela.”

Swahili Jazz, Gogosimo Band, Nairobi Horns Project, Shamzi Music, Mwai and the Truth and Kato Change are some of the Kenyan bands and musicians that have played at the festival.

Each year, as Kenyans continue to dance, sing along and make merry at the annual Safaricom International Jazz Festival, children from Ghetto Classics, a community based programme that exposes underprivileged youth to classical musical and live jazz, benefit from the proceeds.

The programme has benefited since the launch of the festival in 2014 and transformed the lives of more than 1,500 children living in Korogocho, Dandora, Mukuru kwa Reuben and Huruma. The Ghetto Classics also partners with some primary schools in Nairobi and Mombasa.

Some jazz musicians, like German quartet Salut Salon, who have performed in Kenya and for the Ghetto Classics have supported the children by giving them music lessons on Skype.

Ghetto Classics has also had an opportunity to perform with Radzimir Debski, who is also known as Jimek.

So far the programme has received KSh60 million, which has benefited the children.

This year’s International Jazz Day was scheduled to take place in Cape Town, South Africa. However, the virtual concert will be hosted by Herbie Hancock, with performances from various artistes from across the world.

Some of them include Marcus Miller, Charlie Puth, Sibongile Khumalo, Lang Lang, John Scofield, John Beasley among others.

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