The history of ‘jazz’ cannot be told without including Panama and the Caribbean

The Panamanian composer and ‘jazzist’ spoke in “Portada” about the origin of ‘jazz’, its links with Panama and music as a tool for human fulfillment

When talking about jazz, it is common for cities in the United States such as New Orleans, Kansas City or St. Louis to come to mind. All referents in the development of the genre, but not the only ones.

Panama also played a role in the construction of this cultural movement, whose roots reach Africa and necessarily pass through the Caribbean.

“It has been documented that the orchestra with which Louis Armstrong became famous is actually Luis Russell’s orchestra,” explained musician Danilo Pérez, referring to how jazzman Russell, of Bocatorian origin, was a key player in the success of a one of the most important figures of American jazz, such as Louis Armstrong.

Even the Panamanian orchestra ended up being the one that Armstrong would later direct and make him world-renowned, Pérez said on Wednesday in the “Portada” of La Estrella de Panamá.

Also a jazz player and three-time Grammy Award winner, he remarked that research shows a clear line that not only links jazz with Panama, but also shows that the country has made important contributions to the genre.

“You cannot tell the history of jazz without including Panama, without including the Caribbean it would be incomplete,” stressed the founder of the Panama Jazz Festival, an event that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and starts on January 16.

Pérez emphasized that despite the fact that some consider jazz “elitist”, the origins of this musical and cultural movement are the streets of popular neighborhoods. Regarding this, he specified that there is still an open debate on how to keep jazz connected to that origin.

“Jazz comes from the people and is in the Panamanian DNA (…) there is no other festival that has as many people to go and listen to jazz as in Panama. Events occur here that corroborate that jazz is indeed accessible music and it is not elitist music, ”he stressed.

Pérez announced that in this twentieth edition of the festival there will be a greater participation of female jazz players and from different countries, with a show that will leave the public “with their mouths open.”

“Why aren’t there so many women who play music? All the bands we see are all men. Why? The system must be changed from below, women must be given that opportunity. (It’s going to be) incredible what they’re going to hear,” Pérez said.

Pérez also spoke of the link between education and music, and how the latter can be a tool for the comprehensive training of young people.

“What happens to the student when he learns music? Develops: self-esteem, teamwork skills, discipline, creative ideas. All this set of learning values ​​can be transferred to other areas, music has that power (…) we have to take it out of entertainment a bit and put it in humanism a little bit, ”she said.

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