Our third OneBeat Abroad program, OneBeat Balkans, brought together musicians from Kosovo, Serbia, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia and the United States to collaboratively create music and multi-disciplinary works, lead public workshops, and use the arts to establish trust and encourage collaboration across borders. Less than 20 years after the conclusion of the conflicts, the Balkans still faces substantial ethnic and political enmities. And yet within OneBeat Balkans we found that the incredible cultural richness of the region–which has often been manipulated to emphasize divisions–can also be the fodder for transformative culture-bridgings. Just as the Balkans have been a melting pot of global cultures for hundreds of years, we were were able to continue this is 21st century-style, with sonic syncretism that blends such seemingly disparate streams as Roma Brass tunes, hip hop, modern jazz, experimental electronics, and traditional Macedonian vocal polyphony.
OneBeat Balkans began with a 10-day residency in the Rugova Mountains, where the 15 Fellows (10 from the region and 5 from the U.S.) got to know one another, and began collaborating on the creation of original works and the re-invention of existing tunes. During the following 10 days, we traveled to five Balkans nations, corresponding with the Fellows’ home countries. In each country, we performed the works we had developed during the residency, led creative workshops for youth and communities, and gave panel discussions on the role of creative music-making in bridging cultural divides.
OneBeat Balkans is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State Department of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by Bang On A Can’s Found Sound Nation and Balkan Art Zone, with additional support from U.S. Embassy Pristina, Kosovo, U.S. Embassy-Tirana, U.S. Embassy Belgrade, and U.S. Embassy North Macedonia.