The OneBeat Podcast

OneBeat Radio

Episode Summary

Intergalactic kwaai-diva Umlilo takes listeners on a deep dive through OneBeat’s vast musical vault.

Episode Notes

 In this sixth episode of Season 2 we take a deep dive into the musical vaults of OneBeat, spanning over 10 years, and guided by the voice and reflections of Johannesburg-based intergalactic kwaai-diva Umlilo. We visit music created over the last 11-years of OneBeat, spanning programs in the United States, the Balkans, Istanbul, Turkey and Beirut, Lebanon. We hear from some of the artists involved in making this incredible collaborative work about the processes that brought them together, and we explore music as a living archive.  

Produced and Edited by Umlilo, Connie Fu, Luisa Puterman and Kyla-Rose Smith

Executive Producers Elena-Moon Park, Jeremy Thal and Kyla-Rose Smith

Final edit and mix by Jeremy Thal 

Featuring Umlilo, Elenna Canlas, Paulo Sartori, Billy Dean Thomas, Barbara Barbara Majnarić, Tatiana Lopez, Muhammad Dawjee, Juliano Abramovay, Marta Kolega and Lyn Rye 

Episode Transcription


Music: Manyakory (OneBeat 2018) 

Kyla-Rose Smith: Hello and welcome back to the OneBeat Podcast: Season 2. I am Kyla-Rose Smith.It has been a busy time for us here in OneBeat land. We just welcomed a brand new cohort of incredible artists into the OneBeat community through our OneBeat 11 program, and are about to embark on the fourth edition of OneBeat Virtual - our online residency, followed by a very special OneBeat Abroad program which is going to take place in Borneo, Indonesia. We are so thrilled and excited to be working with so many incredible sound artists and musical leaders around the world and this sixth episode is hosted by the multi-talented, spectacular Umlilo - a OneBeat 2018 and OneBeat X Fellow - and now a regular artistic collaborator of ours, in our Virtual program. 

Last year we hosted a special edition of the program - OneBeat X - where we brought together 25 alumni across all years of OneBeat programming to celebrate a decade of gathering in the name of music diplomacy and creative collaboration. A group of these artists, including Umlilo - put together a special radio show, taking a retrospective look at the music in the OneBeat vaults. Today, Umlilo guides us through some of that music spanning 10 years of creation. Sit back, close your eyes, and travel with us through this audioscape curated by Umlilo, Luisa Puterman and Connie Fu. 

Music: Love ft. Malabika Brahma, Ahmed Rock, & Jiha Park (Onebeat 2013)

Umlilo: Hello everyone, I’m Umlilo, intergalactic kwaai diva of the universe. I’m based in South Africa and have been part of OneBeat 2018, Onebeat Virtual 1 to 3 and OneBeat X, where we celebrated a decade of socially engaged music from around the world. Together with my colleagues sound artist Luisa Puterman from OneBeat 2016 and Virtual 1 to 3, and multi-disciplinary artist Connie Fu from OneBeat X and Virtual 2, we have put together an exciting trip down memory lane.

So..last year For the OneBeat X, the 10 year anniversary we put together a 3-hour radio show together with 1B alumni Blinky Bill and it resulted in a selection of music spanning ten years of collaboration between OneBeat artists from all over the world. Today we are here to share a special part of this selection together with some quotes and reflections from the artists that made them. These artists are part of this beautiful community we are celebrating. 

What does it mean to try and listen to the past? In a timeless flow of data.. Are we actually listening to the past and who are we listening to exactly and for what reason? What is the context of the music making process we find ourselves in? With or without big questions, the sounds that were once made are perhaps the strange conviction that the past can be accessed. This will be our exploration. 

An archaeology of sound is not about finding facts in acoustic reflections but to reconstruct a once-audible event in a space of social practice and collaboration. It is also perhaps a fundamental confrontation with a sense that the past cannot be captured. So in this contradiction we invite you to join us in a deep dive of the wonders of the OneBeat archive. We will travel around the world listening to the sounds and insights from the artists that made them over a period of ten years. 

Our first track is Hala sung by Elenna Canlas from OneBeat Sahara.

Music: Hala (Onebeat Sahara) 

In 2022, OneBeat Sahara brought together 23 genre-bending musicians from seven countries in the Saharan Region and the United States to collaboratively create original work and to explore black diasporic musical traditions that traveled from Africa to the Americas, and back to Africa again.

Music continues

Elenna Canlas: My name is Elenna Canlas. I use she her pronouns. I am based on Lenae Kaar Lands in Brooklyn, New York. I am FilipinX American, and I am a musician, an artist, and a spacemaker. 

When I hear this track, the first memory that comes to mind is everybody's faces from the OneBeat Sahara fellowship, like just smiling, laughing faces of all of my co-fellows. I think of the desert and the expensiveness of the desert. 

I think of the people and the experience, and the place, and the times, just so alive in my body and in my memory, and it's something I'm still processing and it's just, I have the biggest smile on my face right now thinking of everyone.

Music: Adugo Ka (OneBeat 2017) 

Paulo Sartori: Hi I am Paulo Sartori, musician from Brazil.

I remember quite vividly when Rapasa presented his instrument, the Nyangile, over his share session back in 2017 at Caldera, in the heart of Oregon. And how we were all hypnotized, I don't believe many of us had seen that instrument before, and Rapasa's performance was so enrapturing. 

And Devin Greenwood really, was a collaborating artist and producer of the track. He really lost it over Rapasa's performance, tracked it down, no click no nothing just the raw performance. And then brought us in, one by one, to add something to that. It was already pretty complete, but he wanted to add different colors. And so that's the final record and I'm very honored to be a part of it and be side by side with these amazing musicians and artists.

Umlilo: OneBeat 9 happened between April 19 and May 9th 2022 under the theme, Sonic Imaginaries. It was the first in-person fellowship since the Covid19 outbreak and sought to overcome the challenges of gathering in one space. The fellows were asked to explore the sound of imagination and prioritize their “mind’s ear”, a distinctive under-researched form of self-knowledge and possibility.  This was a unique moment in time that had many emerging from pandemic isolation while others receded into new forms of isolation caused by conflict and threats to free expression. The OneBeat Fellows entered spaces of collaboration that allowed their aural imaginations to freely share diverse perspectives and imagine new sonic futures together in hybrid exploration in person and virtually. 

Music: VelaBeat (OneBeat 9)

Billy Dean: My name is Billy Dean Thomas, and I'm from Harlem NYC, also representing Boston, Massachusetts.

When I think about this song in particular, um, it just reminds me of sitting in a room with Barbara for hours and hours and I think it was one of our first challenges at OneBeat, where we were trying to find common ground between all the different styles that we had, and I wasn't familiar with one of the time signatures that one of my peers suggested.

And so we were really just working hard to find this through line that really spoke to everybody's style. And when we finally found it, it was amazing because I was able to like, add a little hip hop spin on it and give context to who I was and my background and also like reverse it and add some of this like ambiance and perspective, almost like an omniscient kind of feel.

Barbara: The first memory that comes to my mind listening to Velabeat for sure is the night we got the task and we were talking intensely about the feeling of belonging or feeling of home and how it is somehow complicated for all of us for many different reasons. And then because of the difficultness of these questions, the question even became therapeutical and went to very deep and private places.

I approach memory in a more unconscious way, trusting myself that the impacts I had while listening through to traditional singers, whether it be live or listening to archived recordings are the things that are important to me. And then connecting the dots or making conclusions, sometimes even years after.

Billy Dean: My name is Billy Dean Thomas, and I'm from Harlem NYC, also representing Boston, Massachusetts. When I think about this song in particular it just reminds me of sitting in a room with Barbara for hours and hours and I think it was one of our first challenges at OneBeat, where we were trying to find common ground between all the different styles that we had, and I wasn't familiar with one of the time signatures that one of my peers suggested.

And so we were really just working hard to find this through line that really spoke to everybody's style. And when we finally found it, it was amazing because I was able to like, add a little hip hop spin on it and give context to who I was and my background and also like reverse it and add some of this like ambiance and perspective, almost like an omniscient kind of feel.

Umlilo: Welcome back. Umlilo here and I hope everyone is enjoying this trip down memory lane. This last track was VelaBeat, fresh from 2022. We're now going to take a trip down Virtual memory lane. 

Music: First Moon (Onebeat Virtual 2: Scores for Uncertain Times)

OneBeat Virtual has shown us that creating a space of collaboration can transcend the physical bounds and open up a whole new portal of sound exploration. With this in mind, here are some tracks and reflections made in OneBeat Virtual by Tatiana Lopez Juta from OneBeat Virtual 3 and Lindsey Adebe from OneBeat Virtual 2. 

Music Continues

Music: Carta IV (Onebeat Virtual 3: Unmute)

Tatiana: Hi everybody. I'm Tatiana Lopez Juta. I'm from Lapaz City, Bolivia. This little piece is Mohamed's, my OneBeat partner's, response to one of my letters in which I told him about my feelings at the time. The response was very loving in which he tells me to trust the Tati of the present. This track also brings to my memory the various sensations I had when, on the one hand, I felt a lot of stress, emotion, anxiety, joy, a mixture of things, but, I also just thought that the most important thing was to transmit what the letter said, and every time as I read it, I felt more involved in that feeling of tranquility and understanding.

Umlilo: That was Netfakker (I remember) from OneBeat 2019 which took place between September 16 – October 9 2019 under the theme “Human Ecologies! The fellows resided in New Smryna Beach where they explored how musical creation and performance work as a complex, dynamic, living system but don’t just talke my word for it, here’s Juliano Abramovay talking about this track in more detail.

Music: Netfakker (I remember) (OneBeat 2019)

Juliano: My name is Juliano Abramovay. I am a guitar player from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I've been also playing recently the fretless guitar, which allows you to play with glissandos and using notes which are not part of the Western scale. So it's a very interesting instrument. 

I listened to this track now with headphones and my eyes closed. Immediately I was drawn back to OneBeat to the room where we played this track in Atlanta, with me preparing the track, me being sort of nervous because I'm playing on the fretless guitar, which is not a very easy instrument to play chords with.

So at the same time, I was trying to, you know, be in the moment but also, trying to be worried of, you know, playing the notes right, which is not very easy in this instrument. So my memory is trying to balance these two things of, you know, letting the music flow without losing the tuning.

I think the idea of archiving in music is quite interesting because in a way our, well, let's put it like that. If in, you know, literature archiving could be a text or if in, uh, other arts it could be a physical object, I think a lot of the archiving of the artistic practice in music is in the body of the musician.

So a lot of my archiving, I feel that is in my fingers. And this is also something that you cannot, uh, realize until you have an idea and you try to execute it. And then you will see if your finger is, you know, responding the way you imagined. In my case in particular, I study different musical traditions, which involve different ways of playing things.

Umlilo: Well that was certainly an interesting journey through a decade of OneBeat. Thank you so much for traveling with us and hearing some of the voices that are a part of our OneBeat community worldwide. It’s been a great pleasure hanging out with you and here’s to another ten years of OneBeat. to take us out we have a Luna from OneBeat Balkans one of growing abroad programs that are a part of the OneBeat family as well as A Town without a sound from the first ever edition of OneBeat in 2012. Until we meet again, goodbye, slani kahle and adios.

Music:  Luna (Onebeat Balkans)

Marta: Hi, my name is Marta from Croatia. On the conscious level. I remember very little details or names or places or childhood things, and I often feel very unfortunate because of it. But it happens so that, through my artistic practice or mostly writing, I realized that a certain atmosphere of lived moments from the past, like colors, sounds, landscapes, unconsciously appear in my poetry or lyrics, and so they're transformed, morphed, kind of distorted, but yeah, they appear like, uh, some kind of false memory, but still a memory. I don't think I was ever very interested in things as they were. So I guess in my fictional approach, things get distorted, and I guess that's what interests me about memory as well. 

I don't know, I feel there's something mystical about this song, something that can't be caught. And so it's like, I feel like throughout singing, um, it's like, trying to find something, it's like a searching process and also a clear kind of like physical feeling as a singer which is a certain concentration of all things into one single point. There is like this tension of concentration and on the visual level I can see, I guess some kind of like mountainous planes of South America and this moon that actually is kind of moving because it's waning, so, it's not like static feeling. From a singer point of view, I feel like it's like, uh, your spirit goes wandering to another place.

Lyn Rye: For me, the story of this track goes far beyond the literal meanings of the words. I think in the OneBeat Balkans experience, there was a lot of joyful and celebratory music that was made and very, very sunny uh, music that was made. And I think this track, Luna, was the foil to that. It was the other side of the coin. This was the part of the show, when we performed it live, where something else came to life a shared pain, a shared grieving, a shared experience of almost like summoning the, the nighttime summoning the dark, but then trying to find the light in that as well. I think it was a very impactful moment, um, in the show, even though the literal meaning of the lyrics didn't necessarily give voice to any specific person's experience in the group. I think it was a moment where the, the sum was, or the whole was greater than the sum of the parts, and we reached an emotional depth with this song that communicated a lot about why we were there together doing OneBeat Balkans, and the types of experiences that people were bringing to the table.

So for all the sunniness, this was the moment where we stood in the dark night of the soul together and we built a soundscape that summoned that and that we could just exist in together for a moment before we passed the torch along to another, another dawning of the day. I once had a conversation with a friend who was remarking about how much I archive and he said, I archive nothing and I'm haunted by everything. Archiving may be a form of liberation of if you can archive stuff, you can lay it to rest. If there's a place where that memory or that story can exist you can set it down and not be haunted by it. But that also in terms of the whole idea of history repeating itself, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. There's something liberatory about archives as well. If you can access stories and memories that have been archived, maybe there's no need to be haunted by certain demons or certain fears. There's no need to repeat certain things if we can learn from what's in our archive.  

Music: Town without a Sound (Onebeat 2012)

Kyla: Thank you for joining us today on the The OneBeat Podcast. This episode was produced and edited by Umlilo,  Luisa Puterman, Connie Fu and myself Kyla-Rose Smith  with help from Jeremy Thal. The last two voices you heard in this episode are that of Marta Kolega - a talented singer from Croatia who was OneBeat Balkans and OneBear X Fellow, and Lyn Rye, a wonderful bass player, composer and OneBeat 2017 Fellow. 

The last track you heard was A Town without a Sound, from the OneBeat 2012 mixtape featuring Ceasar K, Ayman Mabrouk, Nina Ogot, PPS, and John K Lawson. If you enjoyed the music you heard, you can visit our OneBeat Bandcamp page for a full archive of music created over the last 10 years. 

Please follow our work, and the work of this incredible community of OneBeat artists - visit for more information (that’s the number 1… And if you are enjoying what you hear, please subscribe to this podcast, leave us comments and share with your friends. 

OneBeat is an initiative of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (also known as the ECA) in collaboration with Bang On A Can’s Found Sound Nation. The views and opinions expressed by our guests on this podcast are their own and not those of the ECA, Bang On A Can, Found Sound Nation, or any of its employees.