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COVID-19 can’t stop the music on International Jazz Day

The artists were originally set to perform in Cape Town, South Africa, but have united for an online concert that will be streamed live starting at 4 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Audrey Azoulay, head of the UN cultural organization, UNESCO, pointed out that music is bringing people together and helping to keep hope alive during the global crisis.

“It is the magic of jazz that we need now, at a time when we are all reminded of the cardinal importance of music – and indeed, of all the arts – in our lives”, she said in a statement for the day.

Legendary American pianist Herbie Hancock, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue, will host the all-star concert which will feature artists from across the globe.

He said International Jazz Day embodies values such as freedom of expression, peace and human dignity.

“Keep these values alive as you play your music in your home or on your balcony, share your music through digital platforms, enjoy jazz recordings, or watch one of our past Jazz Day global concerts”, he said in a video message.

Tribute to Manu Dibango

This year’s commemoration of the international day also has a sombre tone as it serves as a tribute to saxophonist Manu Dibango, who died from COVID-19 on 24 March.

The Cameroon-born force behind the 1972 international hit ‘Soul Makossa’ – sampled, remixed and cited in songs such as ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’’ by Michael Jackson – had been a UNESCO Artist for Peace since 2004.

Said Ms. Azoulay: “Manu Dibango believed deeply in the power of music to bring peoples and cultures together because, as he said in a UNESCO Courier article in March 1991, music is “the most spontaneous, natural form of contact between one person and another”.

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At a time of physical distancing and other measures to halt further spread of the novel coronavirus, music is indeed uniting people, according to Mr. Hancock, the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

“Jazz artists and the jazz community are resilient,” he said. “There is hope and solidarity in jazz music: something we all need right now.”

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