Jazz is a universal message of peace that harmonizes rhythm and meaning, carries values significant for every woman and man, and provides unique opportunities for mutual understanding, the top United Nations cultural official said, as music enthusiasts around the world celebrated International Jazz Day over the weekend.

“This spirit has inspired musicians, as well as poets, painters and writers all over the world, reminding us that culture is far more than entertainment – culture is a window onto the soul, culture is the shape we give to that which we most cherish,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a message to mark the International Day.

Ms. Bokova noted that the history of jazz draws from a mix of peoples and cultures, including from Africa, Europe and the Caribbean.

“Jazz tells the power of music to build peace and bring together people of all cultures and backgrounds,” the Director-General said.

“Jazz gave music to the courage that drove the civil rights movement in the United States, and it continues to provide inspiration to millions of people across the world, seeking freedom, fighting for respect and human dignity,” she added.

Among activities for this year’s Day, an All Star Concert was held at the White House in Washington, D.C., hometown of the jazz great Duke Ellington, hosted by United States President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

In addition to jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, the concert featured Sting, Aretha Franklin, Hugh Masekela, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny and many others.

“After travelling the world, jazz returns home,” Ms. Bokova said. “This kicks off a celebration that will take over hundreds of cities across the globe. Once again, this shows the power of jazz to bring the world together as one.”

Some 150 countries will be hosting Jazz Day events over the next several days, the Director-General said.

In November 2011, UNESCO officially designated 30 April as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. In December 2013, the UN General Assembly formally welcomed UNESCO’s decision, with both bodies now recognizing the Day.

The Day is chaired and led by Ms. Bokova and Mr. Hancock, who serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, a non-profit organization charged with planning, promoting and producing the annual celebration.

International Jazz Day is the culmination of Jazz Appreciation Month, which draws public attention to jazz and its extraordinary heritage throughout April.

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