Musicians from 16 different countries shared powerful melodies and messages this past weekend in Chapel Hill and Durham.
OneBeat, a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of Stateand Found Sound Nation, is a program that unites musicians from all around the world for a month of music instruction, collaboration and performance.
Chris Marianetti, a director for OneBeat, co-founded Found Sound Nation, which is producing the program. Marianetti said Found Sound is an organization that strives to use music to connect people and communities.
Found Sound Nation responded to a call from the State Department for applications for OneBeat’s program development and was chosen as producer after a six-month application process.
“This is an initiative of the State Department, so it’s their program, and our role as producers is to design it and collaborate with them — we carry it out, but they do have a very active role,” Marianetti said.
“I really believe we wouldn’t have been so passionate in pursuing the grant in the first place had we not felt such a synergy with these goals. ‘People diplomacy’ sounds like a cheesy term but it’s a brilliant way of engaging the rest of the world, and an important dialogue to have about how we can think locally and globally and improve things using music as a vehicle to do so.”
Marianetti said that OneBeat is following a very similar route to the one they took last year with the launch of the program — heading up the East Coast from Florida to Brooklyn, N.Y., making stops along the way at places like UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Motorco Musical Hall in Durham.
The program consists of two phases, he said — first, a residency phase, where the fellows come together and begin to get to know each other and collaborate at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Fl. The second phase of the program is a tour up the east coast to perform their collaborations.
Marianetti said OneBeat chose largely the same venues as they visited last year because they wanted to develop programming and reconnect with a lot of the venues they spent time in last year.
“Last year we had such a strong feeling of family and community built, which was really powerful and I think that’s what the fellows and audiences respond to,” Marianetti said.
More than 1,500 applications were received for the 25 fellow spots in the OneBeat program. Marianetti said the four- to five-month process involves written applications, video and audio music submissions and feedback from various embassies to determine the program fellows.
“We are looking for excellent musicians, but we’re also looking for musicians willing to collaborate and who have already been engaging and using music to communicate in interesting ways,” Marianetti said.
Nineteen countries are represented in this year’s fellows, who range from violinists and flutists to beatboxers and rappers.
Kasiva Mutua, an African chanter from Nairobi, Kenya, performed Friday night in a group called “The Big Fun.” Mutua said one of her favorite parts of the program was the residency in Florida.
“What we do is just sit and learn about each other because we came from very very different parts of the world and have such mixed cultures and traditions to learn and listen from,” Mutua said.
“All we want to do is share our talents with other people, and it’s amazing to get to talk and understand the different types of music, traditions and cultures from all around the world.”
Greg Chudzik, from Brooklyn, N.Y., is an upright and electric bass player, who performed in a different group on Friday night. He said the diversity of the venues OneBeat visits has made the performances more interesting.
“Not every ensemble is going to work for every venue, but I think we’ve been able to curate certain musical performances for certain spaces which has worked out nice, and the response from the communities has been overwhelmingly positive,” Chudzik said.
Marianetti said the community interaction and enthusiasm for OneBeat is what made the program such a success, as well as the offshoots that result from the program, such as a Senegalese fellow’s founding of a youth and community center in Senegal after visiting one on tour last year.
“He found a model that presented itself during the tour, and he took it home. He had the seed for the idea, but seeing it in action gave him the drive to keep moving and apply for a grant to do it,” Marianetti said.
“You can feel that when you come to see us — from the concerts and performances to workshops and street studios, people can feel our energy and ideally, they’ll take that energy as models and keep working with them and develop them in their own ways.”
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