Jazz at heart of Caribbean Dialogue and Cultural Integration

For Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca, celebrating International Jazz Day with a concert bringing together some of the most important musicians in the Caribbean was a dream come true.

“What this concert reflects is our desire to integrate, to integrate the Caribbean. I am very happy, very grateful,” Fonseca declared as he presented the live stream concert on 30 April 2021, while the world celebrated the 10th edition of this Day proclaimed by UNESCO.

Cuban winners of the National Music Award Bobby Carcassés, César “Puppy” Pedroso and José Luis Cortés, along with an all-star band of Cuban instrumentalists, and musicians from other Caribbean countries, came together under the artistic direction of Fonseca in an Online Concert and Creative Exchange in the Caribbean, an initiative of the legendary Jazz Plaza Festival, with the support of the Transcultura Programme: Integrating Cuba, the Caribbean, and the European Union through Culture and Creativity, and the collaboration of several institutions from the Cuban cultural system.

For Transcultura, a Programme implemented by the UNESCO Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the support of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean, based in Kingston, and the UNESCO National Office in Haiti, based in Port-au-Prince, and funded by the European Union, jazz embodies the values of peace and respect among human beings, which UNESCO upholds.

Jazz is a humanist genre, created through the exchange of cultures and instruments. It has always been accompanied by great struggles, such as the fight against slavery and for the recognition of and respect for our fellow human beings. It has a lot to do with UNESCO’s ideals of intercultural dialogue and the promotion of peace.

Tatiana Villegas, Transcultura Programme Coordinator

This time jazz acted as a bridge between the Cuban musicians on stage, and musicians Oshane Love and Orville Everet Hammond from Jamaica, Andre Woodvine from Barbados, Barbara Cade from Saint Lucia, Michele Henderson from Dominica, Reginald Policard from Haiti, James Sanker from Belize, Casandra Núñez from the Dominican Republic, and Gairy Knight, from Saint Kitts and Nevis, who took part in the concert virtually.

For all, it was an opportunity to convey happiness, to help heal, to have people laugh and dance amid the hardships of confinement while sharing the power of jazz in the Caribbean.

Jazz is so important to the Caribbean because it is based on African rhythms that the Caribbean adopted and fused to create a new resonance for the world and for music.

James Sanker. Belize

For Cubans, to honour jazz is to celebrate part of the musical legacy of the so-called Island of Music. During the presentation of the concert, flutist Orlando Valle “Maraca” brought to mind that “the history of jazz and the history of Cuban music cannot be separated. Great Cuban musicians have made great contributions to the development of jazz”, he noted.

This Caribbean Concert and Creative Exchange is just the first step in a partnership that will contribute to stimulating creative dialogue between the Caribbean and the European Union through the expressive freedom of jazz and will allow the genre to continue to vibrate among younger performers.

This is the beginning of something very strong and positive. I dream of doing this concert with many more musicians, and students, from Cuba and the Caribbean.

Roberto Fonseca, Cuba.

With these hopes in mind, each chord in the concert, now available online, will open the door to new musical sensations and explorations, for as UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, has said, Jazz is a multiple reality, forged through encounters between cultures, instruments, and people.

Building bridges between Caribbean nations and cultures, and between them and Europe in the Cultural and Creative Industries scenario, is the vital mission of the Transcultura Programme, with outreach in 17 Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

To access the concert, please click here.

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