The OneBeat Podcast

Welcome to OneBeat

Episode Summary

The debut episode of the OneBeat Podcast gives a brief overview of OneBeat - how it came to be, its mission and philosophy, and we introduce the listeners to the various stakeholders who play a role in making OneBeat happen, as well as some of the voices of our many Alumni.

Episode Notes

In this debut episode of the OneBeat Podcast we introduce listeners to the people who make OneBeat possible from the U.S State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, to the founders of Brooklyn-based arts organization Found Sound Nation, and the many incredible musicians who have participated in OneBeat and form a growing global network spread out over 52 countries around the world. 

We talk about the mission that drives this project, and the underlying questions of this work - can music make a difference to our communities and in our societies? How do we create networks and drive conversations where artists and their work can inform global policy? How can creative collaboration and cultural exchange contribute to more democratic and equitable societies? 

Produced and Edited by Kyla-Rose Smith  + Charlotte Gartenberg

Production Assistance by Nyokabi Kariũki

Mixed by Zubin Hensler

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


Christopher Marianetti 

Ricardo Nigaglioni

Elena Moon Park

Jeremy Thal

Julia Gomez-Nelson

The voices of OneBeat alumni Natalia Kunitskaya, Rayhan Sudrajat, Paulo Sartori, Nina Marie Fernando, Rapasa Otieno, Andrea Hojos, Blessing Chimanga, Daniel French, Amel Zen, Darbuka Siva, Iskander Dridri,  Nonku Phiri, Pavithra Chari, Barry Likumahuwa, Alex Asher,  Hope Masike and Anna Roberts Gevalt.

All music produced by Found Sound Nation - find a full playlist here.

Additional music: 

Freshlyground - Doo Be Doo

Louis Armstrong  & His All-Stars - Live  in East Berlin March 22nd 1965

OneBeat is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, & produced by Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation.

Episode Transcription

Music Underscore -  Gumbri

OneBeat is an orchestra of love, is a life-changing experience, is a radical exercise in the perception of otherness. OneBeat is exploring the art of possibility, a super fantastic space to explore ideas, is energy for one's musical soul, is necessary, is a pathway  of harmony through diversity. OneBeat is a dream come true, it's a song that never ends, is a way of life, is life for every musician, for every community, is the world made small. 

Kyla: The voices you just heard are part of a growing network of musical bridge-builders spanning across 51 countries and territories around the world. They are alumni of the OneBeat program. I’m Kyla-Rose Smith. I help run OneBeat but I am also an alumna of the program. I grew up in South Africa. When I was a 20 year old violinist - democracy in my country was 10 years young. I was filled with the same hope as my fellow South Africans  that we could be as Nelson Mandela said - a rainbow nation.  I joined a band that embodied those ideals - the band’s name was Freshlyground. 

Music Interlude: Doo Be Doo - Freshlyground 

Kyla: This band was made up of 7 musicians from different parts of Southern Africa, a band of different creeds and colors, a band that was singing about a new found freedom, about all the things we hoped we could become. And we were an incredible success - selling 350 000 copies of our debut album. But things change, South Africa changed, the dream didn’t quite survive - that’s another story for another time. But since that time I have often wondered what really was our impact as a band? were we simply a reflection of a moment in time? Or did we reflect a moment and sustain a certain kind of hope? What is the connection between music, sound, and creative expression on the movement and growth of people, of a culture, of our collective histories?

I was pondering these questions when I first discovered OneBeat.

Elena: OneBeat is a global music diplomacy program that brings, we like to say Sonic Changemakers, various socially engaged artists from around the world together for an intensive period of music-making, collaboration, creation, performance, and recording, educational workshops, as a vehicle to exchange ideas of how music making can essentially make the world, a more tolerant and empathetic, and beautiful place. 

Kyla: That’s Elena Moon Park. She’s OneBeat’s co-artistic director. OneBeat is a cultural diplomacy program of the U.S State Department’s  Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. But more than anything it’s a laboratory for musical leaders + organizers from around the world

Music Interlude: Aduoga Ka 

Elena: What binds us together is, our belief that music can help us discover our collective humanity. Because sound-making and music-making, creative expression, it’s something that we all have in us as humans, and not only something we have in us, but something that is fundamental to what it means to be human, having your own unique perspective and experience to share with the people around you and with the world.  And we build better relationships because of that.

And I also think this feeds into what kind of artists are attracted to the program, by that notion of like, Oh, yeah, I want to collaborate with people from very different places, with very different backgrounds than myself and put myself out there like that. Cause you know, you're completely out of your element. You're out of your music scene, you're out of your comfort zone and you're speaking a different language, you know? So it really takes a willingness and even an even an excitement about that listening and open sharing in those kinds of circumstances.   

Kyla: OneBeat attracts people tackling a fundamental question -- can music make a difference? This is a question that has been asked for years, and continues to be asked by educators, policy makers, artists, arts lovers, parents, so many people in so many ways. We all have our own thoughts and perspectives on this answer. But it is that conversation that drives the work of the producers of OneBeat, the Brooklyn-based collective Found Sound Nation, who partnered with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs back in 2011 to design and run this program. I spoke with one of our founders about how it all began. 

Chris: So my name is Christopher Marinetti, one of the cofounders of Found Sound Nation. For me, at least the impetus to start thinking of this as something I could do, or as work, came out of a project in the Bronx that, I ran for about two years. And the goal was really just to provide something for this school. I was also studying kind of contemporary music at the time. And so I was excited to just, go as far, you know, in another direction from that world as possible, but also draw on that, you know, draw on what I was learning in a way. So we just, we started this after-school program and, um, I brought my computer, I brought speakers. We started to play back things we'd record. And then slowly after a week or two, there was, you know, there was 15 of us, you know, and, and it was a regular group. They would, they came back and came back and came back. A lot of kids said they just came to school to come to the music program. 

RIcky: Uh, let's go back. So I've met Chris back in 2004, I want to say, about 2004, 2005, I was like 13, 14 at the time. 

Kyla: This is Ricky - he met Chris at his high school in the Bronx where Chris started his first project. Ricky went on to be a fundamental part of OneBeat  and is an incredible teaching artist and musician himself

Ricky: At first to me, he was just this random guy that just came with a bunch of equipment and wanted to just, I don't know what he was trying to do at first.I think the first thing that we ever did, it was kinda like a freestyle jam. Like it wasn't like, Oh, let's just make something.

He just made a beat, like right on  the spot. But like, it was the approach that he took was like, he had us like banging on tables and he was sampling that and turning that into a bass drum and turning pencils at the snares. I'm like, Whoa, wait, what?! Like he, like, how did he just do that? And this is like back then! Um, and then he started recording our voices and the next thing you know, we had like a track made in like 20 minutes. So we were just like, Oh, this guy is kind of cool, actually.

Music Interlude: Caught Up (Bronx Learning Academy) 

Chris: My goal was just to make music that the kids wanted to make, or that they wrote or that they co-created and just create with them and make an album, make whatever. That was just the simple goal, but it was, um, I think what started to happen was this exchange of other people, because, you know, they want a saxophone. And then I bring in my saxophone friend, 

Music Underscore: Oh No (Bronx Learning Academy) 

They wanted a singer, a singer friend of mine would come in. Some folks from Broadway from the show Rent got involved and started coming up. And through this exchange this community kind of flourished in the craziest of places. And it was a real, uh, you know, even in New York communities can be so separated. This was a real, uh, uh, kind of facilitation of exchange in a way, like you had people who were like, Oh, I've never been to this neighborhood in the Bronx, I've never even been to the Bronx. I've lived here for whatever. And then I connected with Jeremy and, um, we started doing this in more schools and expanded expanded, and, uh, you know, we've worked in a number and we still work in a number of settings, but, um, that was the kernel in a way. 

Music continues 

Jeremy: I'm Jeremy Thal and I'm one of the cofounders of Found Sound Nation.

The concept is that when we work with groups of people, whether it be young people, or, you know, folks in hospitals with impairments. We even worked with a group of teachers once from all around the world. We're going to work with them so that they create the own music. The idea was just constantly like, let's get these folks into creative flow., like everyone's a composer and getting people to create collaboratively. 

What we do is, and I think we actually have a hard time to this day to define exactly what it is, in brief it would be creating a space in which people have the opportunity and the support to express their innate creativity. 

Music interlude: Dieuffe 

Kyla: The US has long been pondering the question: can music call on our collective humanity? The practice of music as an official vehicle for cultural diplomacy began in United States  more than a century ago. 

Julia: Hi. I'm Julia Gomez Nelson, and I'm a program officer in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural affairs at the us department of state.

Kyla: Julia has worked in arts and culture her whole career, starting out in museums and then coming to work for the US government. When the idea for OneBeat came across her desk, she saw a great opportunity for collaboration and the power of music 

Julia: Arts exchanges and cultural diplomacy have been a long standing feature of American foreign policy. Dating back to the 1950’s and 60’s when we sent jazz luminaries like Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman overseas as jazz ambassadors. It’s been a long-held belief that cultural tastemakers can inform policy makers. 

Music Underscore: Louis Armstrong live in East Berlin 

So when the opportunity came about to create OneBeat it really became a way to redefine music diplomacy. Because up until that point musical diplomacy had been an export of American artists overseas to perform and to teach foreign publics. Up until that point we hadn’t brought young musicians to the United States to collaborate with other international musicians from around the world and American musicians. 

Music Underscore:  Ay Yar

So, OneBeat was about bringing folks here to the United States, and not just to perform, but to collaborate, to create new music. The exchange became about listening, it became about a true musical conversation and a dialogue that exemplified very pure democratic values of the voice of the individual, respecting that voice, creating space for active participation in a society. So it became a really exciting prospect to bring really diverse musicians, young musicians, emerging leaders within their communities that saw their musicianship extend beyond their music making and uncovering ways to bring the spirit of their community into their creative expression. 

Music Underscore: Krutch

Kyla: The OneBeat programs attract some of the most talented, interesting and dedicated musicians from around the globe. Over the last 10 years it has expanded into a constellation of programs taking place both in the US and abroad. Fellows carry the impact of this exchange with them for the rest of their lives. 

Jeremy: How do you define who these people are that are taking part in OneBeat and also how do we define ourselves? Because we consider ourselves to be one of a group of people who are doing this. And our best way of defining it for many years was to say socially engaged music, socially engaged musicians. But I think defining what that really means is actually a big job for us. But the basic thing is everybody who is a socially transformative or socially engaged musician,  approaches it in a different way. And that's kind of the beauty of the field in essence, and that's part of the beauty of OneBeat  - people come at it with such different life experiences, facing different issues from different musical traditions.

Fellow Experience Montage 

Pavithra Chari: There is so much that we can do with arts. There is so much expression that is involved, there is so much self-reflection that’s involved. And understanding your own self in really accepting your own self. 

Barry Likumahuwa: But now I know that there is a lot more that we can do with music, and being actually involved in the community, and doing a lot of social engagements - things that I learned the most here.

Alex Asher: Meeting people from elsewhere and using all of that to build community. To do a tour where you play, you perform in a variety of scenarios, you do educational and community outreach, you stay in the same place for long enough to actually get to know somebody. I have always wanted to do that. It’s kind of reinforced my interest in music as a broader form of outreach, social engagement and community building. 

Hope Masike: We really were not just talking about our music, it was more, it was deeper than that. We had to explore other things about music and how it affects our health, how we can use it to work with cancer patients or children who have been abused and stuff like that….

Anna Roberts Gevalt: OneBeat is a project about optimism. A belief that I think that a lot of people have that music can change the world. That this is like, hey let’s actually see if that’s really true. I work, I play traditional music and I organize a lot of stuff and believe that we have to know about where we come from. And I don’t really know where I come from all the time, and so somehow I thought that by throwing myself in among people from all over the world would help me get a better sense of where I come from, by knowing where they come from - being so different from where I come from. 

Music Underscore: Manyakory 

Kyla: After 15 years in Freshlyground, and then my time as a Onebeat fellow in 2014, I went on to work with Found Sound Nation and have seen more and more the ways in which music and creative expression can transform individuals and effect meaningful change in our communities and cultures. In this podcast, we hope to share the sounds that inspire us, the people who move us to consider our place in the world, as artists, as musicians, and as global citizens. We keep asking, can music make a difference? Over this season, we bring you people who believe that the answer is yes. Welcome to the OneBeat Podcast.

Music continues

Kyla: This episode was produced + edited by me, Kyla-Rose Smith and Charlotte Gartenberg with essential help from Elena Moon Park and Jeremy Thal. Production assistance by Nyokabi Kariũki. Mixed by Zubin Hensler.

Throughout this episode we heard the voices of OneBeat alumni Natalia Kunyitskaya AKA Mustelide, Rayhan Sudrajat, Paulo Sartori, Nina Marie Fernando, Rapasa Otieno, Andrea Hojos, Blessing Chimanga, Daniel French, Amel Zen, Darbuka Siva, Iskander Dridri, Nonku Phiri, Pavithra Chari, Barry Likumahuwa, Alex Asher,  Hope Masike and Anna Roberts Gevalt. 

Most if the music you have heard was produced by Found Sound Nation with our incredible program participants. We also heard the music of Freshlyground and Louis Armstrong. 

Visit our website for a full playlist.

Listen to us anywhere you get your podcasts - and please rate, review, subscribe and share

Follow us @1Beatmusic. That’s the number 1….beatmusic.

The views + opinions expressed by our guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ECA, Bang On A Can, Found Sound Nation, or any of its employees.

OneBeat is an initiative of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with Bang On A Can’s Found Sound Nation