UNESCO International Jazz Day celebrates jazz music as a messenger of peace and cultural dialogue on April 30th


On April 30th, UNESCO International Jazz Day is celebrated once again. In addition to jazz’s artistic value, the day promotes peace, intercultural cooperation, and respect for human dignity and human rights. Finnish Jazz Federation organizes a week-long Jazz Day campaign, with jazz musicians Abdissa ‘Mamba’ Assefa and Aili Ikonen as the faces of this year.

On April 30th, UNESCO’s International Jazz Day celebrates jazz music and its role as a messenger of cultural dialogue and peace. In Finland, the celebration begins with the Jazz Day campaign starting on April 22nd, which highlights domestic jazz events and festivities for over a week.

In addition to jazz’s intrinsic value, the broader message of the celebration, including intercultural cooperation, peace, and respect for human dignity and rights, is particularly timely in the shadow of the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza. The leading figure of International Jazz Day, legendary pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, once encapsulated the essence of jazz’s significance: “There is hope and solidarity in jazz music, something we all need right now.”

In Finland, the joy of jazz is promoted through the Jazz Day campaign organized by the Finnish Jazz Federation. The faces of the campaign in 2024 are percussionist Abdissa “Mamba” Assefa and singer Aili Ikonen.

Abdissa “Mamba” Assefa is one of the busiest percussionists and drummers in jazz and popular music of his generation, having played on over 1500 songs and approximately 300 albums over his 30-year career. A key member of various bands, including Sami Saari & Cosmosonics, Giant Robot, Bomfunk MC’s, Nuspirit Helsinki, and many more, Assefa represented Finland in the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest as part of the band Edea.

Aili Ikonen is a charismatic singer, composer, and lyricist who collaborates widely with top artists of our time. Ikonen has performed as a soloist with orchestras such as the RSO, UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Norrbotten Big Band, and Tampere Philharmonic, and has appeared at the Presidential Palace. Her career also includes collaborations with jazz ensembles like Jukka Perko Avara and Herd, big band productions, and interpretations of Ella Fitzgerald. Ikonen is also known as a member of the Rajaton vocal ensemble.

Both Assefa and Ikonen emphasize in jazz the importance of bringing people together.

“Jazz at its best is about dialogues, freedom, choices, and strong presence. It offers the opportunity to live in the moment and to share something created together,” describes Assefa.

“The power of jazz lies in people’s connection to each other. Jazz awakens, refreshes, entertains, shakes, nourishes, embraces, inspires, and helps us see things anew, hear with fresh ears,” says Ikonen.

International Jazz Day and the Jazz Day Campaign

In 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated April 30th as International Jazz Day to highlight jazz and its diplomatic mission to bring people together around the world. For over a decade, jazz has been officially recognized as a promoter of peace, cultural dialogue, diversity, as well as human rights and dignity.

International Jazz Day is led by the legendary pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, who serves as UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Herbie Hancock Institute.

In 2024, the Finnish Jazz Federation challenges Finns to participate in UNESCO’s International Jazz Day celebrations through the Jazz Day campaign. Instructions for participation can be found on the Jazz Federation’s website: