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Dhaka Tribune

International Jazz Day: Is Jazz being practiced in Bangladesh?

  • International Jazz Day to be celebrated on April 30
  • Jazz originated in  African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana
  • It is being planned to start a jazz academy in Dhaka soon
Update : 03 Apr 2024, 12:09 AM

The French Ambassador in Dhaka Marie Masdupuy introduced a Bangladeshi jazz band on Tuesday as she invited Imran Ahmed to perform before a select group of audience members at her residence ahead of the International Jazz Day to be celebrated on April 30.

Jazz is a music genre that originated in the African-American communities of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

But its practice in Bangladesh is not widely known.

Imran Ahmed told the Dhaka Tribune that they are doing it professionally in Bangladesh and getting students who want to learn jazz.

They are also planning to start a jazz academy in Dhaka soon.

What is International Jazz Day?

The UN agency for education and culture, Unesco, says the story of Jazz is written into the quest for human dignity, democracy, and civil rights.

It has given strength to the struggle against discrimination and racism.

Unesco believes in the power of jazz as a force for peace, dialogue, and mutual understanding, which is why, in November 2011, the Unesco General Conference proclaimed April 30 as "International Jazz Day".

This day is intended to raise awareness of the virtues of jazz as an educational tool and a force for empathy, dialogue, and enhanced cooperation among people.

Many governments, civil society organizations, educational institutions, and private citizens currently engaged in the promotion of jazz music will embrace the opportunity to foster greater appreciation not only for the music but also for the contribution it can make to building more inclusive societies, according to Unesco.

Jazz means freedom.

“I myself am a musician,” the French ambassador said.

“For me, jazz is the equivalent of freedom, freedom from classical music with all its rules, laws, and things I love. Jazz has been freeing us from the platform, and of course, jazz has also been freeing us from oppression when it comes to some so-called minorities, which are knowledgeably oppressed,” she said.

“And this music, particularly from the oppression of black people in North America, has not only gone beyond that, so it's also a symbol for freeing ourselves from any oppression. So, I love that,” she said.

The Unesco also says that jazz breaks down barriers and creates opportunities for mutual understanding and tolerance. “Jazz is a vector of freedom of expression.

Jazz reduces tensions between individuals, groups, and communities,” it says in its campaign for their international jazz day.

The Bangladeshi bands

It is not known who first started jazz in Bangladesh.

Imran Ahmed, however, said he was the first to start doing it professionally, declaring it a jazz band in Bangladesh in 2014.

“We first did the show in the EMK centre of the US embassy. We have been doing it since then. But it’s still on a homely scale, such as today's show,” he said.

He also presented a fusion of contemporary jazz and raag, apart from his exclusive jazz performance.

“It was a quintet band with one pianist and one saxophonist when I started. The pianist and the saxophonist made two separate bands. So, we had three bands. But the pianist, who was an Australian, left the country. So, now we have two bands in the name of jazz,” he said.

Imran Ahmed said he is teaching and performing jazz at the same time.

He said he was getting many students who wanted to study music outside the country. “They are required to show skills when they want to enrol in any international music schools. That’s why they come to us and learn. At this moment, we have 15 students who are taking jazz lessons,” he said.

Two Singaporeans who are planning for UC Berkeley enrollment next year are also learning from him.

Jazz Academy

Imran Ahmed’s enthusiasm encouraged the Bengal Foundation, one of the biggest patrons of classical music in Bangladesh.

“They showed interest in our proposal, and we are going to have the first jazz academy in Bangladesh soon,” Imran Ahmed said, as he will be designing the curriculum and faculty line-up for the academy.

“There are jazz academies in India and Southeast Asian countries. I myself studied jazz in Chennai, where I have seen faculties from across the world come and teach different lessons. We want to do that here also,” he said.

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