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OneBeat returns to shake up the definition of world music

A world of talent meets in New Smyrna Beach to create genre-bending works

Photo: Photos by Patricia Lois Nuss, License: N/A

Photos by Patricia Lois Nuss

Jiha Park

Photo: , License: N/A

Ahmed Rock

OneBeat 2013

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 | Timucua White House, 2000 S. Summerlin Ave. | timucua.com | free

8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 | Atlantic Center for the Arts, 1414 Art Center Ave., New Smyrna Beach | atlanticcenterforthearts.org | free

The world often associates New Smyrna Beach with shark attacks, but don’t tell our esteemed musical guests, the OneBeat class of 2013 – especially not guitarist Yang Fan, who when asked what she liked best about her visit to Florida (so far) immediately answered, “The beach.” Then again, this is an artist who at 15 started the first-ever all-girl Chinese punk band, Hang on the Box, so she’s not exactly the fearful sort.

But she’s not here to work on her tan. Yang Fan was selected to become part of this year’s iteration of OneBeat, an collaborative music project that pulls together global artists from diverse musical backgrounds (25 musicians from 16 countries) seeking to compel creative fusions of both music and culture.

“This group is just amazing, really diverse,” says OneBeat founder and co-director Christopher Marianetti. “There are a lot of really interesting artists, some of them at the forefront, very famous, and doing really popular or semi-popular kinds of things. And then there are artists just totally pushing the boundaries within their genre.”

When the artists first arrived at the Atlantic Center for the Arts for their two-week sabbatical, they were treated to a workshop led by collaborating artist Mark Stewart, an instrument designer who has worked with Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and others. Stewart helped the group create new instruments, and these were the only means they had to make music during their initial group sessions. Imagine – with artists from Kenya, Venezuela, Russia, Cambodia – being so far from home and without even your instrument as a security blanket when introducing yourself to some of the world’s most imaginative musicians.

For some devoted to traditional instruments, like South Korean composer Jiha Park, it was an opportunity to flex new muscles. For others, it was probably closer to second nature – for instance, New Orleans jazz band leader Aurora Nealand, who recently toured Switzerland with an ensemble called Liquid Land, utilizing unconventional instruments handcrafted from New Orleans trash. Either way, this teasing introduction to what each artist was capable of likely could not predict the immediate electricity that follows the day each artist is reunited with his or her instrument of choice, whether a bass guitar or an oud, and given license to show off.

The mutual excitement that morning is palpable. The musicians were divided into four ensembles, curated by the OneBeat staff. As a means of getting to know each other musically, one person in each group teaches the others one of their own songs. Language barriers aside, the rooms are full of patient and inquiring eyes, not making eye contact, but mostly staring intently at each other’s fingers.

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