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South Africa gears up to host International Jazz Day Global Concert

In April 2020, Cape Town, South Africa will serve as Global Host City for the ninth annual International Jazz Day. This marks the first time a city on the continent of Africa will have hosted this special celebration and its cornerstone event, the All-Star Global Concert, which brings together dozens of the world’s greatest jazz artists for an unforgettable evening of cultural exchange and live music.

Officially declared by the United Nations and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2011, International Jazz Day is celebrated every year on April 30. Reflecting the immense excitement on the part of South Africa’s jazz community, the 2020 Global Host celebrations will extend throughout the entire month of April, with education, outreach and performance programs impacting students, music lovers and the broader public in key urban hubs and their surrounding townships.

In 2015, SPIN Foundation, a non-profit organisation, developed International Jazz Day South Africa as an initiative to enhance and galvanise South African participation in the annual global International Jazz Day celebrations. SPIN Foundation embarked in various processes of bidding to host this esteemed event and, in November 2018, through this bid, UNESCO announced Cape Town South Africa as the 2020 Global Host City with the theme “Tracing the Roots & Routes of Jazz.”

As part of the announcement, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay noted that “this decision is a recognition of South Africa’s strong commitment to cultural diplomacy through a high degree of creativity and an outstanding diversity in its programming, supported by large network of partners.” Cape Town, as the 2020 Global Host City, will showcase a unique jazz history and heritage. The city was chosen because, as expressed in the bid, “Cape Town jazz is more than music – it is the story of slavery and the struggle against apartheid.

The All Star Global Concert is a major media event capturing the imagination of people worldwide, with a reach of more than 2 billion annually.

Following the announcement, Brenda Sisane, the Executive Director of SPIN Foundation and International Jazz Day South Africa, attended the International Jazz Day 2019 Host Celebrations in Australia as the champion of International Jazz Day South Africa. Stakeholder briefings were held in Johannesburg on 26 March 2019 and Cape Town in 26 April 2019; as well as three site inspections and briefing visits by the Herbie Hancock Institution of Jazz from Washington, D.C. who coordinate International Jazz Day worldwide.

These preparatory visits happened in July 2019, September 2019 and January 2020. International Jazz Day South Africa has also engaged various stakeholders from business, government and diplomatic communities.

It being a call to action for society to use jazz music as a language of peace and unity transcending race, gender, and cultural inequality, International Jazz Day asks each of us to play our part in creating a tolerant and united global family. In the past years of celebrating Jazz Day, South Africa has grown an impressive number of International Jazz Day organizers, who each year host their own events in their desired environments. As the host country and the Host City, we have an opportunity both to showcase these continuing initiatives and to build upon the momentum they have created through a unique slate of programs highlighting the roots and routes of jazz music–from an African perspective.

The SPIN Foundation, alongside the City of Cape Town; the South African Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture; the South African National Commission for UNESCO; SATourism and the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport; together with an array of partners and sponsors, will soon unveil the exciting plans to host the much-awaited International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert in Cape Town. A press launch will be held in the coming weeks to announce the line-up, as well as the programs aimed for April 2020.

About International Jazz Day 

International Jazz Day is the one day each year on which jazz is celebrated worldwide, bringing together people of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities in more than 190 countries.

International Jazz Day unites communities, schools, artists, historians, academics and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future, and impact; raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding, and reinforce international cooperation and communication. Every year on April 30, this international art form is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human dignity; eradicating discrimination; fostering gender equality; and promoting individual expression.

In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. International Jazz Day is chaired and led by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and legendary jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, who serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz. The Institute is the lead nonprofit organization charged with planning, promoting and producing this annual celebration.

International Jazz Day is the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month, held throughout April to draw public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage. In December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly formally welcomed the decision by the UNESCO General Conference to proclaim April 30 as International Jazz Day. The United Nations and UNESCO now both recognize International Jazz Day on their official calendars.

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