The stories and histories of Charleston and North Charleston are set to melody and rhythm at this year’s MOJA Festival with the arrival of OneBeat. Now in its 35th year, MOJA Arts Festival: A Celebration of African-American and Caribbean Arts remains a stalwart arts festival, one that taps into the deep history, original stories, and vital currents of our community. In Swahili, Moja means “One” — which is surely a fitting title for this much-anticipated event that continues to attract an array of diverse and talented artists and performers.
On the evening of Oct. 3 OneBeat, a network and ensemble of global musicians ages 19-35 that brings performers to the United States each year for a series of concerts and workshops, heads to Redux. (OneBeat performs at several other locations while in Charleston).
“We have not participated in MOJA before, although we have visited Charleston with our OneBeat program twice before; in 2012 and 2013,” explains Brooklyn-based violinist and OneBeat staff member Elena Park Moon. “We were excited to learn that this year’s visit was coinciding with the MOJA Festival, which we learned from our local partners, and we approached the city about partnering on this program and joining the MOJA lineup.”
Moon works with the organization known as Found Sound Nation, who produces the OneBeat program in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
“Our organization is a collective of artists who use music-making to connect people across cultural divides. We are based in New York City, but design and lead collaborative creation programs locally, nationally, and internationally,” says Moon. “OneBeat is now in its seventh year, and is our largest and longest-running global music diplomacy program.”
Starting with an opening residency, the musicians of OneBeat generate original material, record new musical ideas, and develop their projects. Then for one month during the fall season, OneBeat performs at various venues in the nation, along with collaborating with area musicians and offering educational programs. Over the course of this music-fueled journey, OneBeat musicians gather experience and connections to return to their home countries with music ideas that hopefully foster even greater, music-based social enterprises and creative networks.
Each year, when OneBeat returns to the States, they bring a fresh, original theme with them.
“This year’s OneBeat program brings together artists from around the globe to reimagine NASA’s landmark Voyager Golden Record through the lens of digital culture and global folklore,” explains Moon. “Each OneBeat performance embraces a different perspective in attempting to encapsulate our global soundscape: from the hyper-local neighborhood and individual identity to the vast possibilities of our future societies.”
Musicians featured at this year’s OneBeat performance include Younes Kati (Algeria), Zsolt Bartek (Hungary), Akinyemi (USA), Salma Soltan (Egypt), Andres Rigau (Puerto Rico), Margaryta Kulichova (Ukraine), Luciane Dom (Brazil), and Aditya Alamuru (India).
During their appearance at Redux, OneBeat will also perform pieces inspired by stories from residents and businesses engaged in the conNECKtedTOO project of Redux’s surrounding neighborhood.
“We’ve learned a bit about the tiny businesses that Charleston Rhizome is working with, and musicians have used a very general knowledge about the stores to inspire pieces that resonate with their own lives,” says Moon. “When we arrive in Charleston on Sunday evening, OneBeat musicians will visit storeowners in their places of business and continue to develop pieces based on these conversations and interactions.”
In addition, Moon explains that OneBeat will also perform one or two pop-up acoustic performances at storefronts close to Redux, directly before the show.
“For many of the musicians in our group, this is their first visit to the U.S. — I am excited for them to have a chance to get to know this particular neighborhood through the eyes of its residents, and in doing so to gain a unique perspective on the joys and struggles of this city and this country.”
Moon feels that OneBeat is inherently simpatico to the idea of sustaining and celebrating older neighborhoods, in this case, the innately heritage-rich community of Charleston.
“In the past decade or two, we have seen a resurgence of people in the U.S. moving back into urban areas, oftentimes displacing individuals and entire communities in the process,” says Moon. “I believe this movement to protect and sustain older neighborhoods is partially a response to the threat of this displacement, because with this displacement comes a potential loss of memory; a loss of a sense of place. There is much wisdom to be learned from these communities about who we are, where we have come from, and what we as human societies are capable of.”