U.S. State Department takes a turn as rock promoter

Thirty-two musicians from 21 countries have converged in the United States for a road trip, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

That’s not an ironic rock-and-roll name (a la The Presidents of the United States of America). That’s the actual U.S. Department of State.

In effort to develop ties with other countries through cultural exchange, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has launched an intiative to foster people-to-people diplomacy. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s recent trip to China was part of that initiative, and this project, OneBeat, brings it back home.

Members of OneBeat will perform Thursday night at the World Cafe in Philadelphia.

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OneBeat is not really a band as much as a residency program comprised of musicians with widespread cultural backgrounds. Members hail from Venezuela, Haiti, Egypt, Congo, China, Indonesia, Russia, and many other countries. They spent two weeks together writing music at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Forida.

“We were looking for musicians who demonstrated an interest in creating something new and differnet, reaching outside their traditional boundaries,” said Elena Moon Park of Found Sound Nation, a coordinator of the project. “Not what people think as typical world music, but generating a new kind of feeling and a new kind of sound.”

After writing an armload of music, they took it all on the road. With a 55-seat chartered bus (emblazoned the “OneBeat Bus”) the group is edging up the East Coast toward (where else?) Brooklyn.

The group will play 15 gigs in two weeks, and experience an unusual side of America.

“We stopped in places that these musicians were not expecting to come to when they came to America,” said Park. “Such as Roanoke, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina, and Asheville, North Carolina. We’ve given them an interesting glimpse of America through this road trip. I think they’ve had a good time, albeit a tiring time.”

After Washington D.C. on Wednesday, a handful of musicians broke away in a van headed for Philadelphia, to play World Cafe Live. They will have little time to sightsee America’s birthplace, as they have to re-group with the rest of OneBeat in Brooklyn the next day.

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