Enhancing Dialogue and Unity through Music

Celebrating the International Jazz Day

Peace and unity are important for sustainable development and harmonious living among communities. The attainment Sustainable Development Gaols will not be possible without peace and unity. The future generations will not measure our civilization by the inventions we are making but by our ability to build united and peaceful communities. Peace and unity are the cornerstones of a happy society and are the mark of the highest form of civilization. Even in the Bible, the happiest and most developed period of the Israelite community was when both the Northern and Southern kingdoms were united by David and Solomon. Through peace and unity the economy of Israel thrived and everything crumbled were the monarchy divided after the death of Solomon. Technological inventions and sound policies are not the only marks of success.   Sometimes our inventions of sophisticated technologies have become a threat to human life as evidenced by  the invention of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Today, the rest of the world is celebrating the International Jazz Day and the theme is:  A Call for Global Peace and Unity.  The International Jazz Day was declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 ‘to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.´ (https://www.un.org/en/observances/jazz-day). The day is celebrated annually on April 30. The idea came from jazz pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock and the co-chairs the Jazz Day with the UNESCO Director-General. What is jazz music? It is a genre of music with its roots in the African-American communities of Orleans. Today musicians such as Guthrie Govan, Acker Bilk, Ronny Jordan, Ornette Coleman, Sarah Vaughan and Freddie Hubbard are reckoned as global icons of jazz music.  Music plays an important role in fostering peace and social cohesion. Noreen Kirwin Donnell in her thesis: Messages through the Music: Musical Dialogue as a Means of Communicative Contact argues that, “Music not only engages the listener to respond, it compels the listener to interact.” In the Bible music was played at various life settings such as wars, religious rituals (worship), enthronement of kings, and at funerals. The largest book in the bible, Psalm represents ancient forms of musical and poetic genres. The language of music transcend cultural, economic, religious and social boundaries hence such qualities enables it break boundaries that impede peacemaking initiatives. Why celebrating jazz music?

  •  Jazz breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for mutual understanding and tolerance;
  • Jazz is a vector of freedom of expression;
  • Jazz is a symbol of unity and peace;
  • Jazz reduces tensions between individuals, groups, and communities;
  • Jazz fosters gender equality;
  • Jazz reinforces the role youth play for social change;
  • Jazz encourages artistic innovation, improvisation, new forms of expression, and inclusion of traditional music forms into new ones;
  • Jazz stimulates intercultural dialogue and empowers young people from marginalized societies (https://www.un.org/en/observances/jazz-day)

South African jazz artists such as Joe Malinga, Dudu Pukwana, Hugh Masekela, Mirriam Makeba, Sipho Gumede and Louis Moholo were pivotal in fighting apartheid through music. This explains why Mirriam Makeba has to spend most of her life in exile because her music was treated as a security threat to the apartheid government. We have also witnessed the role played by music during the Covid 19 lockdowns when people had to listen to online live performances by various artists. There is healing in music especially when things are difficult. We are living in world where human existence is under the threat of wars and various terrorist activities. Therefore, the role of Jazz music in fostering peace and unity remains relevant. This year´s celebration is held at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York. The event will be live streamed at 5pm EDT on jazzday.com and dozens of artists across the globe will be given the opportunity to perform.  As we enjoy the rhythm and lyrics of music let us take time to reflect the message of peace and unity that is being put across by musicians through art. The subject of peace and unity is an important one hence it needs to be addressed holistically. Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.       

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