What happens when you bring together 32 musicians from 21 countries on 5 continents, almost equally divided between men and women, to write, produce and record original music and take it on the road for American audiences? That was the idea behind OneBeat, a new international cultural exchange that celebrates the transformative power of the arts through the creation of original, inventive music, and people-to-people diplomacy.

“In one studio a Polish saxophonist was jamming with an Indonesian gamelan master. In another, two singer-songwriters — one from Kenya, the other from Denmark — were finishing a song they had written together. Next door a Lebanese oud player and a Korean playing a traditional zitherlike instrument called a gayageum rehearsed a duet for a coming live performance. In one room after another world music in its truest sense was being created,” writes Larry Rohter in the New York Times.

“We’re in a Garden of Eden, with no forbidden fruits, but it’s also very intense, because we have to mingle,” said Nina Ogot, a guitarist and singer-songwriter from Kenya. “That forces different cultural traditions together, so you have to find common ground and make music, no excuses allowed.”

OneBeat is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and is produced by Found Sound Nation. Ann Stock, the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, described OneBeat as a particularly effective means of cultural diplomacy, “They are not only coming together to write and produce new music, but forming bonds and networks and relationships that will continue to grow.”

Found Sound Nation is an eclectic group of artists who have created an imagined musical nation that transcends geographical, linguistic, and political borders. The work of Found Sound Nation uses the expressive power of music, audio, and video production to give voice to underrepresented communities, unlock the creative potential of at-risk youth, and build bridges between communities separated by cultures, economic disparities, and geography.


A United Nations of Music