The show will have three free performances in the next two days.
When and where: 8 p.m., Sun Music Hall, Floyd
When and where: noon to 3 p.m., “Street studio,” Century Plaza, Roanoke; 8 p.m. Jefferson Center
Info: 345-2550; jeffcenter.org; 1beat.org
World music conquers Southwest Virginia this weekend through a unique arrangement that has Roanoke’s Jefferson Center working with the U.S. Department of State.
This year the state department inaugurated OneBeat, a program that’s brought together 32 musicians from 21 countries to swap ideas and make music, and sent them touring through the southern and eastern states.
Friday they’ll play at Sun Music Hall in Floyd, and Saturday they’ll spend the afternoon performing at Roanoke City Market before an evening show at the Jefferson Center. All performances are free.
They’ll also meet with students at Jefferson Center’s Music Lab.
OneBeat falls under the rubric of the state department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which promotes cultural exchanges.
“The State Department has a long history of engaging audiences worldwide through music, beginning with Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, our first jazz ambassadors who traveled eastern Europe in the 1950s,” wrote Adam Ereli, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the bureau.
OneBeat co-director Elena Moon Park said the program is about innovation, collaboration and using “music as tool to reach out to other communities.”
“Fostering mutual understanding of cultures, communities, and countries is the underpinning of U.S. foreign policy,” wrote Ereli. The two-year program is funded by a $1.25 million federal grant.
The musicians, ages 19 to 34, were recruited internationally through email and social media, said OneBeat spokesman Ryan Dawes.
The breadth of music represented ranges from traditional to ultramodern. There are rap stars from Cambodia and Senegal, a DJ and engineer from Russia, a laptop composer from China, a pop singer from Kenya, an American flautist and singer, an oud player from Lebanon and many more.
Before the tour began Sept. 22, the musicians spent two weeks in residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida. The shows will combine performances by individual musicians with showcases of the ensembles formed during the residency.
“Sometimes you’ll see a duet, a trio, or a large group, sometimes featuring local artists who’ve had time to rehearse before hand. The genres will vary drastically from set to set,” Dawes wrote.
These are some pretty eclectic combos. One video taken from the practice sessions shows foot percussionist, dancer and singer Aditi Bhagwat of India fronting a band that includes Chance McCoy of The Old Crow Medicine Show playing guitar, American musician Amir ElSaffar playing the santur, a Persian hammer dulcimer, and South Korean museum Kyungso Park playing the gayageum, an instrument similar to a zither.
Jefferson Center’s connections to a variety of eclectic music put the Roanoke region on OneBeat’s radar.
Found Sound Nation, a New York-based artists group that uses music for education and outreach, won the state department contract to direct OneBeat. Elena Park, the OneBeat co-director, is also a Found Sound project manager. She played at Jefferson Center in 2009 as part of the children’s music band Dan Zanes and Friends.
“Back when she played here, I had engaged them in a performance and a Music Lab collaborations with some young students, and we had a great time, so when this project became a reality we were on their short list of hosting partners,” wrote Jefferson Center Artistic Director Dylan Locke in an email.
“I thought it was a beautiful structure,” Park said of Jefferson Center’s program. She said OneBeat’s directors wanted to give their musicians the chance to work with students, and to experience “the diversity of American cities.” She called Roanoke “a solid Middle America town.”
When officials with OneBeat visited Jefferson Center, “I mentioned that they might want to consider Floyd’s Friday Night Jamboree as well,” Locke wrote. He suggested it would be interesting for “international musicians to storm the old-time and bluegrass scene …. So we all went out there and checked it out. They loved it!”
A number of regional musicians have been invited to perform with the OneBeat fellows, and students will take part in the shows as well, Locke said. Local Colors of Roanoke is involved, too, reaching out to the communities represented by the OneBeat troupe. The international musicians will also visit public schools Friday afternoon.
The tour started in Orlando, Fla. and will end Oct. 6 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Along the way the performances will be recorded. “We will have at least one album that comes out of OneBeat,” Park said.