In early November, over a dozen local arts organizations are partnering with OneBeat to present over 25 musical innovators from all over the world to Seattle audiences.
OneBeat is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The festival in each city is produced by Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation.
OneBeat’s organizers assert that their philosophy is one of connection and engagement. They believe high-quality original music can cross social, political, and cultural divisions, leading to positive change.
One artist participating in this year’s event is Arun Sivag, a percussionist based out of Banglore, India, whose favorite instruments include djembe, timbal, congas, bongos, darbuka, dijirido, and Indian folk instruments.
Sivag’s involvement in OneBeat stems from his interest in international education and cooperation. “My reason for coming to the OneBeat program is my craving to learn and understand music of other countries and thereby help myself to open and connect with various forms and styles of music,” he said.
OneBeat’s mission also dovetails with Sivag’s commitment to social issues. “OneBeat was not just a platform for musicians, but musicians who use music as a tool to create a social change in their communities, which I believe in strongly,” he said. “Since I’m a musician and a social entrepreneur, this was a right place for me to be.”
Sivag’s role at OneBeat is to represent India, which he considers a big task. “To showcase the richness of Indian folk music, I would like to collaborate with the other artists at OneBeat and as well as the audiences,” he said.
Beyond collaboration, Sivag is also interested in experimentation. “I would like to explore instruments that have organically evolved and journeyed from underprivileged spaces across the world to the global stage, finding a common throughline from various cultural and geographical backgrounds,” he said, “and to be open minded, learning as much as I can and bringing this beautiful learning experience back to India.”
Sivag already has experience in creating connections, as the founder of two youth organizations centered around music. “Working with youth is a very interesting experience in a whole because of the energy and the creative thinking you see in them,” he said. “Youth are the pillars of the modern society.”
When Sivag returns to India, he hopes to continue building these kinds of connections by launching OneBeat: India, duplicating the experiences of OneBeat’s sharing and collaboration in his home country. “I want to create a platform for musicians in India, since much of the folk and grassroots music is still not mainstream,” he said. “I hope to bring musicians from the USA, Europe, Africa, and Asia to collaborate in this project, as OneBeat India will bring a very big positive change in them, and they will be able to offer much to India.”
A key part of OneBeat: India would be an initiative aimed at women’s empowerment, according to Sivag.
“There are many women musicians denied opportunities, as India is a male-dominated country,” Sivag said. “Thus I want to organize music project in various tribal areas and villages in India, which would generate a platform to showcase the rich tribal and village folk music.”
Sivag plans to arrange for women to be at the forefront of this showcase.
“This project would involve women from tribal areas, women from Indian cities, and OneBeat alumni from around the world,” Sivag said. “This collective will develop ways generate their livelihoods and to channel their social and entrepreneurial ideas, thus providing equal access and involvement amongst each other. The goal would be to reach a shared vision of creating positive impact on society at large, through collectively networking across the globe.”
Music is the key to creating this impact, according to Sivag. “The power of music is such that it can have a tremendous effect on people and communities,” he said. “Today we have so many social issues and such negativity going on around us, and of course discussions will help, but I think one of the best approaches is to use music, because it gives people such positivity.”
So far, Sivag’s involvement in Seattle has likewise been positive. “The experience of working together with the staff and the people in charge of OneBeat is that the organization is very professional in their work and committed towards the mission and vision of OneBeat,” he said. “The agencies have welcomed us whole-heartedly and I have had great hospitality wherever I go, which makes me feel at home.”
Sivag believes it is the music that helps create this hospitality. “Music has the power to reach any place, no matter which country you go to, or which country you come from,” he said. “If you’re a musician, you are always welcomed by people across the globe. That’s the power of music.”
OneBeat will be presented from November 4 to 7, at various locations in Seattle. For more information, visit http://1beat.org/onebeat-seattle.