Jazz touches souls in Maseru



MASERU – Lesotho touched many souls at an event conducted on April 30 as the world celebrated the International Jazz Day.

 The much-anticipated commemorations in Maseru were conducted at Harambee Global Studios, with several jazz bands, musicians, and a large audience in attendance. The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) designates April 30 as International Jazz Day to urge all UN member countries to employ jazz music to promote peace and harmony around the world.

Mokoenya Chele, president of the Mountain Kingdom Jazz Foundation (MKJF), spoke on behalf of the organisers, saying he was surprised by the participation and presence of most jazz patrons, not just from Maseru but from all over the country. He said such an event would have been far more deserving if all MKJF clubs had joined together to celebrate jazz in one location, a sentiment shared by many who expressed excitement for bigger and better International Jazz Day event in Lesotho next year.

The show’s organising committee included the host club, Fliers Jazz Club, the Lesotho Arts and Culture Foundation (LACF), local radio stations, newspapers, and MKJF, as well as other individuals who helped put the event together.

“Lesotho has always offered a lot of good jazz music to the world for a long time without getting much acknowledgement,” said Masitise Seleso, one of the founding members of LACF and owner of Harambee Global Records.  “We previously had bands like Sankomota, led by the late Tšepo Tshola and Frank Leepa, and the Studio Big Band. They sold Lesotho music to the world to the point where people mistook them for South Africans. We felt we could use this day to show the world what Lesotho can bring to the worldwide jazz community.”

There was no band performance, but each jazz club played a selection of music for the occasion. There was also a poetry performance by a renowned poet, actress and former radio and TV presenter, Mpho Sefali.  There was also an enthralling juggling demonstration by a juggling artist.  The event’s honoree was Lejone Mpotjoana, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations. He also went live on one of the local radio stations present and encouraged both the performers and the organisers to push Lesotho to the global stage through jazz music as well as Lesotho’s arts and culture.

The attendees had the luxury and honour of listening to three of the four remaining members of the Studio Big Band, one of the country’s oldest jazz bands, during the event.  They discussed what affected the history of pop and jazz music in Lesotho in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, as well as what they believe should be done to preserve Lesotho’s jazz past. Mpolai Ntlele, one of the revelers, said she had a great time and that it was refreshing to listen to local talent for a change. She looked forward to another show next year.

UNESCO formally recognised April 30 as the International Jazz Day in November 2011 to highlight jazz and its diplomatic significance in unifying people from all around the world.  UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay and famed jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, who serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz, chair and lead International Jazz Day.

The Institute is the non-profit organisation in charge of organising, promoting, and organising this annual event.

International Jazz Day brings communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz fans from all over the world together to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future, and impact; raise awareness of the importance of intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding; and strengthen international cooperation and communication. This international art form is commemorated each year on April 30 for encouraging peace, conversation among cultures, diversity, respect for human rights and dignity, eradicating discrimination, developing gender equality, and promoting freedom of expression. Since 2018, the day has been observed in several locations in Lesotho. The primary event on Sunday was at Harambee Global Studios, however, there were others nearby.

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