by Susan Cohen
We've never thought to ask the U.S. Department of State for help, but maybe that's been our loss. The federal executive department has launched OneBeat, an exchange program and tour that has recruited 32 musicians from 21 countries, reflecting various musical traditions. The 2012 fellows include a Polish producer, a Venezuelan cuatro player, a Kenyan singer, and an Indian foot percussionist, among others. The group will form ensembles and record new material, and they'll be bringing their new projects to cities on the East Coast and in the Appalachian Mountains, where they'll collaborate with American musicians.
"OneBeat builds on Sec. [Hillary] Clinton's vision of smart power, which embraces a full range of diplomatic tools — in this case music — to bring people, especially youth, together to foster greater understanding," says Jeremy Thal, OneBeat's event and tour organizer. Thal adds that OneBeat is meant to promote mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries, as well as demonstrate America's respect and appreciation for other cultures and traditions.
The tour will make a Charleston stop Sept. 23-26, performing at venues like Marion Square, Redux Contemporary Art Center, the Pour House, and the John Rivers Communications Museum on the College of Charleston campus. While in the Lowcountry, the OneBeat fellows will join forces with Bill Carson, Ron Wiltrout, Quentin Baxter, Kevin Hamilton, Rachel Kate Gillon, Joel T. Hamilton, and the Garage Cuban Band. "This type of engagement serves to accomplish what Sec. Clinton calls person-to-person diplomacy," Thal says. There will be stops made at local schools as well.
Thal also works as a producer for Bang on a Can, which specializes in on-location audio production and music recording. They'll be recording the OneBeaters at a "Street Studio" outside the Communications Museum, incorporating the area's ambient noise into the production.
Visit 1beat.org for a complete schedule and biographies of the international performers.