The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization paid tribute yesterday to Jean Serge Essous, a Congolese musician who served as one of the agency’s Artists for Peace. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova mourned the death of Mr. Essous, who passed away last month in Brazzaville, calling him a “remarkable musician” who defended the agency’s ideals.
A leading figure on the Congolese music scene, Mr. Essous was a composer, saxophonist and clarinetist. “His art spread messages promoting intangible cultural heritage, cultural dialogue and exchange between peoples, particularly addressing the young,” Ms. Bokova said.
“His death is a great lost to African music and to all those open to the different types of music of the world.” Mr. Essous had originally trained to be an electrician and met the musicians of the Diaboula Ballets on his first job.
In 1956, he helped to begin OK Jazz, a group that has left an indelible mark on Congolese and African music. He also directed another major group known as Les Bantous de la capitale, and served as an advisor to the Congolese recording company known as the Société Congolaise du Disque.
On 11 October 2006, the then UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura designated Jean Serge Essous UNESCO Artist for Peace during a ceremony at the organization’s headquarters. The President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, on an official visit to UNESCO on the occasion of the 165th session of the Executive Board, attended the ceremony.