Sounds of Diversity – A Shared Musical Heritage
It has been 150 years since the abolition of slavery in the Netherlands’ former colonies. But the legacy of slavery still ripples through our society and continues to influence music today. The festival’s overarching theme highlights the diversity of people and music that history has given us.
By Orville Breeveld
There is a rich diversity in being Dutch. And it encompasses more than differences in appearance, skin color and accent. This rich diversity is the sum of historical routes and the experiences of past generations that shape the identity and value of our society. Yet we are not always aware of these routes and experiences. And we are even less aware of their value and power. Routes through times in major - but definitely also in minor keys - that have shaped our hearts and our vision of the world. Our historic routes are not only dotted with beautiful fireworks but booming ones as well. Bangs so loud that they caused many a heart to skip a beat.
Countless hearts have been broken time and again by horrors from the past. Others have become masters of self-healing and made themselves immortal through their resilience. These historical stories make us who we are today. Regardless of whether the stop before this Dutch train station was Jakarta, Maastricht, Paramaribo, Leeuwarden, Accra, Willemstad or Ambon, we are boarding the same train and we desire to sit together in the same car. A car where diversity is the norm and embraced with open hearts.
This year, the festival is celebrating diversity through programming dedicated to Sounds of Diversity - A Shared Musical Heritage. The reason is to mark 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in former colonies of the Netherlands. The festival is inviting visitors to feel and hear the legacy of the history that has also contributed to making us who we are as a nation. We are the Netherlands because Indonesia was once the Dutch East Indies. We are the Netherlands because in 1873 the first indentured laborers from India landed at Fort Nieuw Amsterdam, on the Suriname River. We are the Netherlands because people from numerous African countries were transported to the Americas where they were enslaved.
The festival bears in its name the words “North Sea” and “Jazz”. Words that have a history with those former Dutch colonies. For it was from the North Sea that ships sailed to Africa, Suriname, Curaçao and Indonesia. Not on pleasure cruises, but on journeys leading to centuries of exploitation, oppression, and dehumanization. A struggle between indigenous peoples and those whose lust for economic gain and craving for power had far-reaching consequences that can still be seen and felt today.
Jazz is the common ancestor of musical forms and styles that have been celebrated at the festival for 46 years. And this forefather has spread around the world as a genre, just like those peoples, and has also landed and set down roots here in the Netherlands. Those roots, after centuries of intense struggle, have borne musical fruit.