OneBeat: Music as Cultural Diplomacy

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Hungarian woman and Kenyan man portraits.

OneBeat Fellows Vera Jonas and Bill Sellanga. Photos by Hannah Devereux

Map of KenyaMap of HungaryMusic, like love, is an international language. Cue OneBeat—an innovative program established by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, whose mission is to bring young musicians (ages 19-35) from all over the world to collaborate in the United States for one month. OneBeat begins with a two-week residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and then, after several workshops and hours of rehearsals, the fellows board a bus heading north. They stop in small towns and cities along the way to perform, record in the streets with a mobile studio, and teach kids of all ages a little bit about who they are and what their sound is all about.

For many folks who don't have the means to travel the world, through OneBeat the world comes to them. So at some level, OneBeat updates, and inverts, the State Department's Jazz Ambassadors program of the late '50s and early '60s, where the U.S. sent jazz musicians to perform in politically charged nations like Russia and Egypt. In 2014, OneBeat continues to illustrate how music can shatter stereotypes and unite people from remarkably different backgrounds. In this piece, we hear from Hungary's Vera Jonas (Fellow, 2012) and Kenya's Bill Sellanga (Fellow, 2013) on how the program works and how music transcends differences.​

OneBeat - March 12.mp3

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