Celebrations of the first annual International Jazz Day started at the weekend with a concert in Paris; followed by another in New Orleans on Saturday, and the final one at UN Headquarters in New York on Monday this week.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1T8vYTEyBPw/TltqSdcLipI/AAAAAAAABq8/eglnRkyhiyQ/s1600/VA-M.S.J%252B%252BPresents...Club%252BJazz%252BVol.%252B2%252B%2525282011%252529.jpgThe International Jazz Day, which falls on April 30, seeks to spotlight the historic influence the jazz music genre has had in connecting people and igniting social change.

At the heart of the celebrations is the African roots of the genre of music and its roots in slavery, it has raised a passionate voice against all forms of oppression. Its pedigree speaks a language of freedom that is meaningful to all cultures.

"Jazz makes the most of the world's diversity, effortlessly crossing borders and bringing people together," said the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Irina Bokova.

Born in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, jazz is rooted in African traditions, draws from European musical forms, and has evolved into various styles across the globe.

At the UNESCO General Conference in November last year, the international community proclaimed April 30 as International Jazz Day, with the intention of raising awareness in the international community of the virtues of jazz as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue and enhanced cooperation among people.

In her message to mark the day, Bokova stressed that the values of jazz - freedom, diversity, understanding between cultures and peace - are the same values supported by the UN.

"Making the most of cultural diversity is a task we all share," she said.

As part of the celebrations, in addition to the concerts in Paris, New Orleans and New York, others will be held in more than 100 cities around the world including Moscow, Muscat, Havana, and Yerevan.

In New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, UN Goodwill Ambassador, maestro Herbie Hancock, will be joined by other jazz luminaries in a performance in Congo Square at sunrise.

Students and schools from around the world have been invited to play the song Watermelon Man along with Hancock and upload their performances online through YouTube.

On Monday evening, UNESCO, along with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, hosted a concert at UN Headquarters which featured an all-star cast of performers, among them Tony Bennett, Chaka Khan, Angélique Kidjo and Romero Lubambo, as well as Hancock. Co-hosts include actors Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Quincy Jones.

Both concerts were broadcast live on the UN's YouTube page and were available to the public.

Also on Monday, a panel discussion involving jazz artists on the theme of Conversations on Unlearning Intolerance: Jazz as a Force for Education and Dialogue, was held and a documentary film, Finding Carlton screened.

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