The Power of Music During a Pandemic:
UNESCO International Jazz Day 2020 in Palestine
Established by the General Conference of UNESCO in 2011, the annual International Jazz Day which takes place every April 30th brings together countries and communities worldwide to celebrate jazz, and highlights music’s important role in encouraging dialogue, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s 9th International Jazz Day celebrations transitioned to a virtual format worldwide.
The Willy Brandt Center in Jerusalem, in partnership with the UNESCO National Office for Palestine in Ramallah, participated once again in the 2020 edition, thereby contributing to this global initiative through music events promoting Palestinian musicians as well as international artists who have participated in former editions of the International Jazz Day in Bethlehem, Gaza, Jericho, Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The event started with an online jazz workshop organized by the Herbie Hancock Institute in Washington. The session took place in Arabic, featuring Tarek Yamani, a New York based, Lebanese-American award-winning composer and a jazz pianist.
We were proud to present online music video premieres of the Palestinian SOL Band, Swiss-Finnish singer Heidi Caviezel, Mohammad Qutati from Ramallah and Lukas Schiemer from Austria, all of whom composed, performed and recorded special contributions for this occasion.
The highlight of the Palestinian Jazz Day celebration was a concert that was streamed live from Gaza through different streaming platforms. The musicians Mohammad Zohod, Mohammad Albalawi, Hossam Hassona and Lyad Abu Laila, all members of the popular Typo band from Gaza, mat at a studio to play for a large online audience. Their performance was followed by a musical performance by Mohammad Shoman, a member of the Gaza based SOL Band, who performed with his sister, singer Ghada Shoman.
In his opening address, Typo band’s lead singer Mohammad Zohod stated that this year, due to the COVID-19 crisis, “our band will play for the first time a concert online instead of facing audiences, but we are sure that you will all enjoy the music and the songs.” The high number of enthusiastic comments during and after the live-concert reflected the great interest and wide participation of the audience. The streaming was followed and shared online by several institutions and individual music fans of the local and international community, and attracted about 1500 viewers from around the world.
We would like to thank the Herbie Hancock Institute for their continuous support and inspiration, and express our profound gratitude to all artists participating in this year’s online events. We are already looking forward to the moment when we will again be able to celebrate the International Jazz Day in Palestine together with our dear audience and with many artists from near and far.
Until then, let us keep on making music and remember the words of Herbie Hancock, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Co-Chair of the International Jazz Day, who said, “Now more than ever before, let’s band together and spread the ethics of Jazz Day’s global movement around the planet and use this as a golden opportunity for humankind to reconnect, especially in the midst of all this isolation and uncertainty.”