May 01, 2012:
A very pleasant good evening to one and all and thank you all for joining us here at UNESCO for this evening of celebration of one of the most relevant and beautiful musical forms ever to be invented in the past century—Jazz.
Plato once said and I quote:
“Music is moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness and a gaiety and life to everything. It is the essence of order and leads to all that is good, true and beautiful.”
This evening, I find that his words aptly describe in particular the greatness of the musical art form that is jazz, and it is specifically due to this importance that UNESCO’s local chapter is joining several other countries in celebration of International Jazz Day.
It was at the UNESCO’s General Conference last year, in Paris, where I attended, that April 30 was proclaimed as "International Jazz Day,” with the intention of raising awareness among the international community about the relevance of using jazz as an educational tool, as well as a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.
It was thus hoped that across the globe, Governments, civil society organisations, educational institutions and private citizens who are engaged in the promotion of jazz music would embrace this opportunity to foster greater appreciation of the music, as well as its overall and longstanding contribution to engendering inclusive societies.
We are all familiar with many Jazz festivals in the Caribbean—in Tobago, St Lucia, Jamaica and other islands, as well as all over the world, being held at various times of the year and attracting large audiences, to the point where jazz festivals are now major tourist attractions for several countries and individual places in large societies like the US and Europe.
UNESCO, in particular, created International Jazz Day not only because of these economic and cultural issues, but also because of its powerful history of being a form of social and individual empowerment. Its origins lie in slavery and it has over the decades embraced an anti-oppression voice and one of freedom and artistic expression of the highest form.
Jazz is deemed ‘musician’s music’ and has a history of breaking down barriers among various peoples and creating opportunities for acceptance, tolerance and equality.
In many ways therefore, jazz reflects the qualities that our beloved country, Trinidad and Tobago, has become internationally renowned for, and it is for this reason that we here at the local chapter of UNESCO take pride and pleasure in celebrating this very momentous occasion, as it marks our own commitment to these principles.
Without further ado, then, I wish to invite all to enjoy the music and relaxation — much needed I daresay — that this evening will bring.
I’m sure that as we listen to some of our own local musicians who play this very majestic art form, like author David Sedaris said in his book “Squirrel seeks Chipmunk; A Modest Bestiary” we will come to think of jazz “as every beautiful thing we had ever failed to appreciate: the taste of warm rain; the smell of a baby; the din of a swollen river, rushing past the tree and onward to infinity.”
Thank you and May God bless us all.