This April, lovers of jazz music in Rwanda joined the rest of the world in celebrating International Jazz Day. The day was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 to highlight jazz music and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the world.
The day is marked every 30th of April, and observed by all UN member states. Earlier, on April 22, a special concert was organised to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the state of New Orleans in the US, known as the birthplace of jazz music.
The day is intended to raise awareness in the international community of the virtues of jazz music as an educational tool, and a force for peace, unity, dialogue, and enhanced cooperation among peoples of various nations.
This year, the main celebration took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, the global host city, and more than 190 countries across the globe.
In Rwanda, the day was marked with a day-long jazz extravaganza at the Radisson Blu Hotel, featuring various jazz musicians and bands.
The inaugural International Jazz Day event in Kigali was made possible by RG Consult, organisers of the pioneer jazz forum, the monthly Kigali Jazz Junction.
Performances came from the Neptunez Band, Makumbi Sound, and the Three Hills Band led by Hope Irakoze.
Also among the performers were surprise foreign acts; Sammie Soul from Nigeria, and Burundi’s Andy Mwanga.
The well attended event further raised hope for the growing jazz music scene in Kigali, which has seen phenomenal growth since the inception of the Kigali Jazz Junction in 2015.
Josh Agaba, a jazz music fan attributes the genre’s rise in Kigali to professionalism.
“When you talk of a jazz concert, you are talking about a fully live concert. You are talking about professional stage set and costume. All these are not a guarantee when it comes to other genres of music.” Agaba adds that music lovers are moving away from the trend of paying a lot of money to what he terms as “CD artists”.
After a memorable performance at the Kigali Jazz Junction in December 2015, Tito Al Uribe, a jazz musician from Chile could barely hide his joy at the huge reception from local jazz enthusiasts.
He promised to promote jazz music in Rwanda by opening a school to teach what he described as “real jazz music”. He revealed that the school would run a seven-year course format similar to the one at the Berkley College of Music in California, US.
Today, jazz music is a staple at most corporate and government events, even private events like weddings.
Remmy Lubega, the managing director of RG Consult, which started the Kigali Jazz Junction in 2015 notes that in starting the forum, he was looking for a unifying factor for an increasingly cosmopolitan city:
“People from all over the world are coming to Rwanda to set up business, to work here, or even acquire citizenship, so there was need to cater for that segment as well.”