Jazz has been influential beyond America’s borders from its beginnings. I had always known, of course, of the music’s role in Parisian society after the Great War in the 1920s. Later, at the height of the Cold War, Eisenhower’s State Department sent Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and others around the world on what turned out to be highly succesful goodwill tours. An underlying theme on these trips was the shared experience of African Americans with people of color in the Third World. Most famously, Louis Armstrong toured Africa in 1957. The highlight was Satchmo’s performance celebrating Ghana’s independence that March. That the Little Rock desegregation crisis was reaching its climax at the same time was not lost on anyone. The wit and sophistication of these artists did much for America’s standing, even–especially–when they chided their country back home for not living up to its ideals.
What I did not know until the Hayfoot brought this to my attention the other was the role of jazz in India going back to the 1930s. The Raj was still going strong during these years but the movement seems to have been influential primarily on desi musicians. My favorite part is when author and narrator Naresh Fernandes mentions the jazz scene in Karachi, which is today in Paksitan due to partition.
Enjoy your Sunday.
(image/Eros Theater, Mumbai; Colin Rose)