South Africa has been chosen as the first African country to host International Jazz Day in 2020 and Cape Town will be the epicentre of this global celebration of music and cultural diplomacy. This was announced at a press conference held in the Mother city on Tuesday.

Billed as the World Cup of Jazz, International Jazz Day takes place on 30 April and attracts hundreds of jazz musicians from around the globe. It was established in 2011 by the Thelonius Monk Institute with jazz legend Herbie Hancock as the global ambassador and the late Hugh Masekela at the centre of it.

Since then, overseas hosts have included Istanbul Turkey, Osaka Japan, Paris France, Washington DC USA, Havana Cuba, St. Petersburg, Russia and in 2019, Melbourne Australia.

Pitching the theme Roots & Routes, Cape Town has won the bid to officially host this prestigious event for April 2020.

Brenda Sisane, Executive Director International Jazz Day, says that South Africa is a recognisable jazz destination.

“What clinched it for us is the fact that we are a recognisable jazz destination and that we do have a product that people appreciate. And festivals such as the Cape Town Jazz Festival and the Joy of Jazz are a beacon for that. But it’s also the truth that we wanted to share about the roots of jazz and Africa’s contribution to the music.”

Cape Town is the first host city in Africa, a continent from which slavery and migration helped spread the seed of jazz. Among the heavyweight South African volunteers who have thrown their weight behind it are former president Kgalema Montlanthe and internationally renowned pianist Abdullah Ibrahim.

The annual global event has been championed by UNESCO and over the next year, Cape Town will partner with the South African Department of Arts and Culture, the Department of Basic Education, the Department of Tourism, tertiary institutions, jazz music educators, music entrepreneurs, the local community as well as many regions on the continent.

Sisane has labelled this an enormous ambition.

“It is enormously ambitious, but one of the undertakings of the jazz ambassadors who travel with us is that we need to take it to the people and one of the challenges is to reach those remote areas.”

Week-long performances and festivities at venues such as the Castle of Good Hope, Langa’s Guga Se Thebe and music spaces throughout the city and beyond will culminate in the biggest jazz concert in the world streamed live globally. The focus will also be on music education, funding, heritage and the power of music to unite and transcend borders.