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European Jazz Conference 2017

Ian Patterson By

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The challenge, Traoré concluded, is to make African leaders aware of the importance of culture and of the arts. "It's the long-term solution of all the problems, for which they will spend one hundred times the money once they have happened."


In addition to a lot of great music the EJC 2017 in Ljubljana provided a veritable feast for thought. Above all, the three days served as a potent reminder that the cultural diversity in all our societies is a process of natural evolution. Yet while tensions exist, and they likely always will to greater or lesser degree, there is a pressing necessity to work for social and political inclusion, tolerance and understanding, beginning, perhaps, within our own indigenous cultures.

The stories heard, from all three Keynote speakers, and from migrants, ex-pats and refugees alike, underlined the fact that the motivations to cross borders and seek a new beginning are many and varied. From the push factors of war, famine, drought, poverty, unemployment and oppression, to the pull factors of work opportunities, better health care and education, material goods, and not least, a safer, more tolerant environment.

Though Rokia Traoré expressed the hope that African youth will find in their own countries, the work, opportunities culture and sense of self-worth that will make their dreams come true, she acknowledged the eternal human drive to go wherever it is necessary to get ahead. "That is the way we all left Africa centuries ago and that is the way we all started as humans occupying the rest of the world," she observed. "That is the way it will continue."

The choices are not many. Social inclusion—and this must begin, as Traoré noted, at home—or social upheaval. Open hearts and minds, or razor wire borders, ghettos and ever greater numbers of displaced, marginalized and nationless humans—the prey of traffickers and those bent on political radicalisation.

Jazz is no panacea, but its practitioners and presenters all have potentially important roles to play in our increasingly hybrid societies. The EJC 2017 brought that much into sharper relief.

Photo Credit: Tina Ramujkic


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