Tuesday, July 7, 2020

COVID 19 Virus Hits Jazz, Hard

The initial announcement of the Corona Virus in 2019 got the It Has to Be Jazz® team thinking of the worst case scenario. The last thing in our minds was the implications on jazz and jazz followers. We were too preoccupied preparing ourselves for the events scheduled for 2020, in particular International Jazz Day celebrations.

The focus was on planning how we were going to honour all the invitations we had received from different countries and what we commit to doing to celebrate all planned International Jazz Day activities. In the process, we seriously downplayed the possibility and the extent to which this virus was going to hit the jazz world.

When Abdullah Ibrahim announced his withdrawal from the 2020 Cape Town International Jazz Day because of the Corona Virus, everything just went south. Of course, as expected, the event organisers attempted to contain the situation the best way they could. They assured the patrons that a suitable replacement would be found. The assurance did not last long because a few days later they announced the postponement of the event to a foreseeable future.

At this point, governments across the globe had started alerting their citizens of the various measures they were putting in place. Frankly, it only hit home when I went through a health check point at Tlokweng border in Botswana and thereafter finding the South African border staff putting in masks and gloves.

A few days later more jazz shows were cancelled and we began to fully appreciate what was going on when the chairman of Listening Room Jazz Club, to which we are members, announced that the rest of the planned sessions were cancelled until further notice. The circumstances compelled the It Has To Be Jazz® team to rethink a way forward.

The seriousness of the spread of the virus is real in terms of the musicians’ personal health because of exposure to crowds and that does not mean the patrons are immune. The other harsh reality is the loss of income due to events that have been cancelled indefinitely. The problem also extends to those who have already booked flights, accommodation and bought tickets to the show. It is uncertain if there will be a full refund for those who may choose to be refunded. Needless to mention, the economic implications for service industry in the arts space!

Rather than focusing on the negative component of the virus, the It Has To Be Jazz® team has chosen to look at the positive side of things. At the top of the list, there is a higher presence of Facebook members of the various jazz groups and largely discussing and suggesting how best to support artists. Never before have I ever seen so much focus on artists. And it is a great move.

 There are many ways one can help artists. One can start posting the new and old music on any social media platforms which will go a long way in marketing. I believe, in the absence of listening sessions and/or events, more people will turn to listening to what they already have in their jazz collections. I was amazed at the number of posts where jazz collectors stated how they have not been listening to their music in such a long time.

It appears social media is now serving a new purpose for jazz folks and that is dissemination of vital information on the virus. This is great and most welcome news. I have picked up one of the most profound posts which redefines the value of time given the current trying times we are going through; ‘In these trying times we should not forget to live life. We need to make time to remember that, after all, there is life. If you love your jazz, do not stop loving it or even making time to play and enjoy it. Check on other jazz folks and their loved ones and share the jazz you have.’

The message has hit home and to lighten the burden of pain people have taken hid of the advice. I like the way jazz folks jokingly use bump jive (knocking of bums) to greet each other. Never before have I seen people so creative about greetings. The use of the side of the shoe is an interesting one. Of course, how can we forget the famous elbow brush?

So, what has the virus actually driven jazz folks to do which they did not as much before? There is far more care for each other which was not as much before. There is far more unity amongst musicians and followers alike. Those with a sense of humour are using their skill to the best of their ability and in turn alleviate any unfounded fears. Every little bit of information is reaching families and most importantly in the jazz circles the results are obvious, for example, availability of soap and water. For those that can afford, they avail hand sanitisers.

COVID 19 virus is not a jazz problem and I am by no means suggesting jazz folks are the only ones doing something about it. I am just sharing experiences from the jazz space but I am certain the stokvels, funeral societies and others must be doing the same. This is a human problem regardless of where one is and I trust you will do the right thing by exercising extra precaution not only for yourself but your fellow human beings.

So, why did this article make the It Has To Be Jazz® project? This is a human problem and everyone needs to contribute positively to its eradication. Use whatever is at your disposal to help resolve the problem. The It Has To Be Jazz® team wishes you only the best during these trying times. Stay alive and keep safe.

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