#7: Introducing Jazz in Diamantina – the story of JK Jazz Band

Claudivan Souza e Silva, conductor and founder of JK Jazz Band
Claudivan Souza e Silva, conductor and founder of JK Jazz Band


Last week, I had a chance to meet Claudivan Souza e Silva, conductor and founder of JK Jazz Band in Diamantina. 


Originally from Rio de Janerio, Claudivan came to Diamantina three years ago, and founded the first Jazz Band in Diamantina. The initial ‘JK’ stands for Juscelino Kubitschek (1902-1976), the president of Brazil (1956-61) whose notable work includes the construction of Brasilia as a new capital. Kubitschek, also known as‘JK’, was born in Diamantina. Today, his childhood home is a museum, and this became the first home of the JK Jazz Band, where the first performances were held. 


JK Jazz Band at the House of Juscelino Kubitschek in Diamantina
JK Jazz Band at the House of Juscelino Kubitschek in Diamantina



With all of the diverse musical heritage of Diamantina - from Baroque to Chorinho - I had somehow assumed that Jazz is something already fully integrated into the culture. To my surprise (and ignorance), Jazz is still a new music genre in Diamantina, and Claudivan is the first musician to establish a Jazz Band!


(This kind of surprise is an example of the unique features of a digital residency - through these online conversations, sometimes I find myself turned upside down by the realisation that I have made some unconscious assumptions based on my own musical upbringing.  If this was a residency in which I could visit the place, this realisation may not be so clear to me as each cultural encounter is so immediate and intuitive. Prior to the meeting, I had prepared some questions which were sent to Claudivan – but after the first few minutes, I quickly realised my questions were completely useless! A digital residency can be an exercise of imagination!)


Throwing all prepared questions out of the window, I asked Claudivan – how has the local people reacted to Jazz as he established the JK Jazz Band in Diamantina?

Claudivan answered that the initial reaction was very positive, and the Band has grown from strength to strength. The first concerts were held at the house of Juscelino Kubitschek, but as the audiences grew, the performances have been held at various places and outdoors. For the local musicians, the concept of Jazz improvisation is still new – however, with all of their aural skills, intuitively gained through the various musical genres in Diamantina, training in Jazz is not entirely difficult. 


As Claudivan mentioned that the Jazz culture is very strong in Rio – my next question was, whether the culture of playing Jazz outdoors is something unique to Diamantina, or is this also common in Rio? To this, Claudivan said that it is also common to play Jazz outdoors in Rio as well. My experience of listening to a Jazz performance in both UK and Japan, has almost always been inside closed doors, with its heavy curtains and dimly lit stage (such as Ronnie Scotts in London and Cotton Club in Tokyo, to name but a few). From this, I imagine that the culture of Jazz in Brazil may be slightly different to that of UK and Japan, and this is something I would love to see and experience in the future. 


What is also interesting to note about the JK Jazz Band, is the inclusion of an electric guitar in the instrumentation (played by the conductor of the Diamantina Youth Orchestra, Reginaldo Cruz!). Through the various conversations with the local musicians so far, this openness, mix and fusion of diverse musical cultures have been something very refreshing to me. It’s also exciting to discover that in such a historical town like Diamantina, the culture is also evolving with new music genres and projects brought by the younger generation, and this project of Claudivan is a great example. The session concluded with Claudivan and I agreeing that it would be wonderful to perform together in the future. I might have to practise my Jazz violin skills before that, but wouldn't that be exciting!


To find out more about the JK Jazz Band, please see: