Saturday, July 4, 2020

Keeping jazz alive during Covid-19 pandemic

As at the time of writing this article, COVID-19 is suspected to have claimed the lives of over 4 jazz legends whose immeasurable contributions to jazz extends to all the continents. It is indeed a sad state of affairs. The measures put in place by different governments to combat the pandemic seemed to have hit jazz where it hurts the most; so, we thought! But human resilience is such a special tool because it continues to help us go past our current adversity.

We do not have the luxury of allowing ourselves to dwindle into the sunset without an effort to save what we have worked so hard for; jazz being one of them. The most creative jazz minds went back to the drawing board and never before have I seen creativity put to so much good use.

Just when we thought International Jazz Day had been dealt a blow, they came up with a brilliant idea and that is the virtual celebration which is accommodative of the social distancing precautionary measures as stipulated by most governments. Yes, I agree it is not the best scenario but it is the next best thing considering that the worst would have been to be without any celebration at all.

Fortunately, the new virtual celebration has given us an opportunity not only to test its possibilities but the successes as well. A few of the groups, not exceeding 10, have come together to do what is now commonly known as ‘Lockdown Sessions.’ A few of such sessions have already taken place via live streaming over social media platforms. There is yet another opportunity that jazz musicians are exploring and exploiting. 

It appears that the lockdown period has created a spare time which we all must have needed before. This time is now being used for recording music and new ideas. I have been receiving, on average, about 3 video or music clips from various jazz musicians. This is an amazing use of time considering what we can expect after the lockdown. Better yet once the COVID-19 is a thing of the past!

I suppose there are many ways of looking at the positive impact of the lockdown. Right at the top of the list is obviously the lives that are likely to be saved and there is no doubt about that. But there is yet another angle to this, which is what I call ‘the period of creation!’ I have picked up some of the ideas shared by a social media group called Im4TheArts

This platform has focal points which can be put into 2 categories. The first one is unity and a consolidated front that will deal with most issues facing the arts industry.  As to how practical is some of the proposals, it is yet to be seen. The second one is the positive energy that carries most of the members. A lot of the talks are around celebrating victory over COVID-19. I believe this is a good thing and each post on this topic helps retain the high spirits in the group.

David Lephoto, a seasoned event promoter and colleague from World Sound Concert, in one of the many discussions that we usually have, he pointed out the significance of keeping the spirits high. His reasoning is that when people recover from the aftermath of the pandemic, the number of people who will want to go out is likely to increase. This is good for the industry and of course the recovery of the arts industry as a whole.

One should not be too naïve to imagine that the return to live music venues will be instant. There is likely to be some element of doubt and a trial and error period as venues upgrade their premises to prepare for prevention of the virus from spreading. The major outlets are already practising this new lifestyle. Without a shadow of a doubt, life after COVID-19 is no longer going to be the same, especially for the arts industry. Let me share some examples. Studios are likely to install equipment to sanitise shared items like microphones, stands, headphones, just to mention a few. There will be a need to update the health and safety regulations shortly after the lockdown period. However, the majority of the forward-thinking studios have already started reviewing their regulations and they are budgeting for implementation accordingly.

May I hasten to indicate that while artists and musicians have all these brilliant ideas, they need to take the necessary precautions in ensuring that they are in line with implementation and furthermore managed accordingly.

So, why did this article make the It Has To Be Jazz® project review? COVID-19 is by no means selective in its trail of destruction, but it is like a reset button that requires each responsible individual in the arts space to act decisively and quick. The purpose of this article is to provide as much information as it is possible so that artists can make an informed decision and plan properly. Stay safe and keep healthy. We can hardly wait for the live performance of all your creative works that will come after the COVID-19.

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.