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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

In one room is a jazzy electronic pop vibe (led by Nigerian guitarist Biodun Kuti and accentuated intriguingly by Kenyan songwriter Bill Sellanga); in another, a soaring post-rock soundscape initiated by South African guitarist Mpumelelo Mcata, colored with mesmerizingly cool soprano vocals by Czech singer Lucie Páchová and misted by keys provided by U.S. songwriter Nandi Plunkett (of the band Half Waif) on piano and Lebanese audio-visual artist Elyse Tabet on an electronic keyboard. But in both rooms the same slow, deep nods are paired with enthusiastic grins at the precise moment when the confusion clears and the composition is free to break out on its own. This was something more cerebral than simply jamming, and more invigorating than half the stuff you hear on Pitchfork.

And it was only the first day of working together in a functional environment. Marianetti partially attributes this to the setting, which is why they returned to Atlantic Center for the Arts for a second year.

“This place is unbelievable,” Marianetti says. “The space is really magical. You’re living in a place where nature and architecture really meld together, and it’s really a beautiful thing. Everybody who comes here is really amazed.”

When the musicians stop for lunch, in the social cafeteria setting, you see some artists naturally keeping with their ensemble group to continue the conversation outside the classroom; others gravitate toward personalities they already seem to really gel with. An observer can already get a sense of who might collaborate later on, when they get to choose who they work with (after the second set of ensembles, chosen at random). Marianetti explains his theory that the communication skills they develop in the assigned groups will help strengthen the more organic collaborations to propel satisfying arrangements and what he anticipates to become lifelong music-writing relationships: a small step in his larger goal of maintaining a worldwide community of musicians.

“It feels like this is really the future in a sense, and not just in assembling musicians and pushing the boundaries of music-making but also in thinking of the global, political sense,” Marianetti says. “We have people here who are really doing things in their countries. We have an Egyptian rapper who was at the forefront of talking out about the revolution. He said some things last night that you could tell was just blowing people’s minds.”

Perhaps the best way to prepare for Friday’s show is by listening to last year’s OneBeat mixtape (foundsoundnation.org/2012-mixtape). OneBeat is one of several projects under the umbrella of Found Sound Nation, an artists collective that seeks to leverage music to strengthen communities. The OneBeat project includes a musicians residency program and then a two-week tour made possible by assistance from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which is why so many musicians of different nationalities can come into the U.S. to meet and perform without complications.

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