Night in Istanbul – 2nd International Day of Jazz

What a Musical Feast!?

On April 30th, 2013, Istanbul played host to the International Jazz Day Global Concert, featuring Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, Joss Stone, Marcus Miller, John McLaughlin, Terence Blanchard, Ruben Blades, Ramsey Lewis, Hugh Masekela, Eddie Palmieri, Al Jarreau, Dianne Reeves, George Duke, Lee Ritenourr, Jean-Luc Ponty, Milton Nascimento, John Beasley, Igor Butman, Anat Cohen, Vinnie Coliauta, Imer Demirer, James Genus, Bilal Karaman, Pedrito Martinez, Keiko Matsui, Terri Lyne Carrington, Hüsnü ?enlendirici, Joe Louis Walker, Ben Williams, Liu Yuan and others — a panoply of the global jazz creativity!

The Director-General of UNESCO, the Bulgarian Irina Bokova, and the master of ceremony Herbie Hancock both spoke eloquently of the transcending power of music and jazz, particularly in uplifting spirits and uniting humanity.


The closing of this beautiful evening of unity through jazz was an inspired adaptation of “Night in Tunisia“, by the most famous jazz musician among the Baha’is, Dizzy Gilespie, renamed appropriately “Night in Istanbul”.

UNESCO’s choice of Istanbul, this bridge between continents, cultures, and religions, as the host of the 2nd International Jazz Day Concert was particularly appropriate:

Spurred by the success of the first celebration, UNESCO, in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (TMIJ) will be organizing the second International Jazz Day on April 30th, 2013. This day is destined to raise awareness in the international community regarding jazz’s virtues as an educational tool, as a vehicle for peace, unity, dialogue, and for enhanced cooperation between peoples.

The year 2013 marks the beginning of the International Decade for People of African Descent, consecrated to the theme, “Recognition, justice and development for people of African heritage.” This constitutes yet another highlight of the event that the United Nations will surely support. Africa, whence jazz draws its origins, will thus be doubly honoured this year.

Istanbul is the official host city for 2013. Turkey has an age-old tradition of jazz.  Munir Ertegun, Turkish Republic’s first ambassador to Washington in the 1930s, opened his embassy’s parlors to African American jazz musicians, who gathered there to play freely in a socio-historical context which was deeply divided by racial segregation at the time. Inspired by this legacy, the ambassador’s sons, Ahmet and Nesuhi, went on to establish the United States’ first jazz and gospel label in 1947 – Atlantic Records – which was seminal in spreading the beauty of jazz music around the world.

In April 2012, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock and TMIJ spearheaded and organized the historical events which took place around the world where  jazz legends gathered together for key events at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, at the United Nations’ Headquarters in New York, as well as at the emblematic Congo Square in New Orleans. From Algiers to Buenos Aires, from Kuala Lumpur to Warsaw, from Lomé to Santo Domingo, more than a hundred countries celebrated this day.

After the UNESCO General Conference in November 2011, April 30th was declared International Jazz Day.

Herbie Hancock at the International Jazz Day Concert

I could not have asked for a better group of musicians to illustrate the global appeal of Jazz. My only disappointment was with the audience — in the concert hall and online. The audience in the majestic former church which was the concert venue hardly showed appreciation for the wildly diverse group of performers who were indeed the cream of the crop of the world of Jazz. The online audience of the live broadcast was hovering at around 6000. An event like this deserves better exposure and any social media help it can get. So, do yourselves a favor and:

  1. Watch the video of the 2nd International Day of Jazz Concert;
  2. Book April 30, 2014 for the 3rd International Day of Jazz so you can watch it live!

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