Zim Musicians Hail U.S. Cultural Exchange Program

woman singing and woman playing guitarMbira songstress and 2016 Kora award nominee, Hope Masike, says she is not sure what to tell someone who asks what her next album will be.

“My third album, I don’t even know what to promise people, but it is about all those people I have met and those places I have been to,” she told audience members listening to her presentation about her experiences during a cultural exchange program in the United States in 2014. “It’s the first album when I am having to record something, then send it via electronic mail to someone in Indonesia so that they can play an instrument whose name I can’t even pronounce,” she said. She admits that the experience alone will change her composition.

Masike is one of three young Zimbabwean musicians that have participated in the OneBeat program in the past two years. The program started in 2012 with support from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in collaboration with the groundbreaking New York-based music organization Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation.

Masike, with Tariro Ruzvizvo, popularly known in musical circles as Tariro NeGitare, shared their experiences during a Food for Thought discussion session held at the Embassy’s Eastgate offices on Tuesday.

“The one special thing with One Beat is you are meeting 25 musicians from 17 different countries … there are 17 different cultures spending a month together,” said Masike who has collaborated with international artists in Europe and Southern Africa including Monoswezi and Umoja prior to her experience in One Beat.” You are given an environment to experiment as much as you want with you music, an environment to discover yourself musically and otherwise as well as how you can come back home and make a difference in your society,” she narrated.

“I loved OneBeat because it paid attention to the creative process,” added Tariro. “Sometimes when we are here we are concerned about performances to the extent that we forget about the actual process of creating. Putting time into your art and products which is one thing I needed to revisit on a personal level.”

For Tariro the innovative use of space for shows during the residency as well as local funding of the arts sector intrigued her. “We maximized on the use of venues that are not ordinarily for entertainment, such as libraries,” she said.

OneBeat brings musicians (ages 19-35) from around the world to the U.S. for one month, each year, to collaboratively write, produce, and perform original music, and develop strategies for arts-based social engagement. OneBeat begins with a two-week musical residency where fellows collaborate to invent new musical works, record and produce tracks in custom-built mobile studios, design public engagement workshops, and meet with social entrepreneurs.

The residency is a time for fellows to listen to one another’s musical voices and to weave together their interests, histories, and skills into unique, original works. Past residencies have taken place at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida and Montalvo Arts Center in the Bay Area.

After the residency, OneBeat hits the road for a two-week tour featuring performances, youth workshops, and public music-making events. Past events have included an art installation and music festival in an abandoned train factory, university panel discussions and workshops, interactive street studios, and much more.

The deadline for applications for the 2016 program is February 5, 2016, and Zimbabwean musicians, with or without formal musical training, can apply online through the 1beat.org website- ZimPAS © January 14, 2016