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OneBeat: Music and Social Change

A discussion of how artistic expression can effect positive change on a local and global level.

The event will feature a panel, round table discussions, and musical presentations!

Who will you meet?

Dima El Sayed
Poet, Singer / Lebanon

Dima El Sayed is a poet and singer based in Lebanon. She studied to be a jurist and human rights researcher in Paris, before traveling to India to learn Dhrupad, the Hindustani sacred art of singing and finding your true voice. Her soulful voice and impassioned songwriting is informed by raga, Sufi Mystic tradition, and her practice as poet of three languages. She is currently Community Development Manager with the Danish Refugee Council, where provides training to INGOs willing to work with Syrian refugges in Lebanon. Through her work with UNESCO and prolific blogging, Dima is committed to artistic expression that mingles the personal and political.

Mpumelelo Mcata
Songwriter / South Africa

Mpumelelo Mcata (Mpumi) is a member of one of the most innovative bands South Africa has seen this generation, BLK JKS. They have become known for their individuality and open approach to music and cultural identity. Born in Port Elizabeth/Nelson Mandela Bay, Mpumi attended primary and high school in Johannesburg. He passed on the option of institutionalized tertiary education for what he felt would be a much more meaningful experience: learning through touring the world with his own African post-rock band. Following international tours and some critical acclaim, Mpumi has begun directing music videos and also a documentary film about Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai.

George Kandalaft
Oud player, Composer / Nazareth

George Kandalaft is an oud player specializing in lyrical improvisations in a traditional style. He was born in Nazareth. At the age of 10, he started playing the oud, and later joined his first band at the age of 14. Two years later, he began to take part in a project that aimed to play music for peace. In 2008, he finished his first degree in musical performance and music education, and continued his academic diploma in music therapy in Jerusalem. Through the years of his life, George has participated in different international music festivals in different parts of the world. He has played with bands, orchestras, and performed his own compositions for solo oud–both in a traditional sound and an electrified heavy metal style. He is interested in integrating the oud with music from different origins. George is also a music therapist.

Aurora Nealand
Saxophones, Clarinet & Vocals / USA

“I think separating ‘musical life’ from ‘life’ at this point is a challenge for me,” reflects Aurora Nealand. After attending the renowned Conservatory at Oberlin College, where she designed her own major in “Contemporary Music,” she moved to Paris to study at the Ecole du Theatre Physical Jacques Lecoq, taking the opportunity to explore doing music/sound for theatre. She eventually landed in New Orleans, where for the past 8 years, she has been playing Traditional New Orleans jazz and diving into the rich musical culture of the city. Today, she is a band leader and contributing member to a number of performing groups, as a saxophonist, singer, composer, and improviser. These include Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses, Panorama Jazz Band (playing Klezmer, Balkan, and Afro-Caribbean music) and a number of free-improvising ensembles. She recently toured Switzerland with the Liquid Land ensemble, playing instruments handcrafted from trash found in New Orleans. Her compositions are explorative and expansive, whether combining pre-recorded tape material with viola, bass, and saxophone, or eliciting a modern-day cabaret feel with solo voice, accordion, and stripped-down drum set.

Daniel French
Jarana / USA

Daniel French’s career began with a set of unattended bongos in a church basement. After being encouraged to play the drums by a passing member of the congregation, he dived into congas and djembe and, later, bass and guitar. Today, he plays the jarana, an 8-string guitar from Veracruz, Mexico. He performs primarily with a 7-member band called Las Cafeteras, which plays a mixture of Son Jarocho (Afro-Mexican), cumbia, ska, hip hop, Native American sounds, and some U.S. folk sounds. The band, which has recorded two albums, has been featured on NPR, KCRW (LA), and the LA Times, and tours occasionally, recently at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. With a decade of community organizing under his belt, Daniel hosts a world music night called Eclectica that brings together people from across Los Angeles to dance to global beats. He also organizes meetings of Latin indie bands in the city to explore the central question of “What can we do together that we cannot do alone?”

Rapper / USA

Kokayi is a Grammy nominated MC, producer and educator. Born Carl Walker, the DC native has appeared on over 20 albums from his early collaborations with Steve Coleman and hip hop group Opus Akoben to his latter and most recent work alongside Dafnis Prieto.

His work has been described as “genre bending and without limit” as he tends to blend his musical influences into a stew of organic soundscapes while maintaining his hip hop sensibilities. He has had songs placed in several movies including Kevin Hart’s “Laugh at my Pain” , the Bernie Mac documentary “I Ain't Scared of Y’all and “A’larrache” , as well as having music placed in commercials for ESPN, MTV, BET, Johnny Cupcakes and Nickelodeon.

As an educator, he was a recent TEDxWDC presenter for its theme of “collaboration and the creative economy” , he has taught University level classes on vocal improvisation, hip hop history at institutions ranging from Stanford to NYU. He has lectured in over 35 countries, currentlya serves as faculty with the School of Improvisational Music (based in NY) and has partnered with the US State Department serving as a cultural envoy via their Rhythm Roads program, which utilizes hip hop culture, education and music to foster cultural exchange.

Kokayi continues to create and nurture his own sound, develop his own brand and continues to be both a student and a teacher of his diverse forms of expression along with his high level of productivity, quality music and electrifying live performances, his next album Pro Deo et Patria is set top be released in late September.


OneBeat is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is an international cultural exchange that celebrates the transformative power of the arts through the creation of original, inventive music, and people-to-people diplomacy. By giving international artists from abroad and the United States creative opportunities to interact, OneBeat furthers these vital goals, one unexpected musical piece at a time. It is a chance for adventurous musicians from an incredible diversity of traditions to seek common ground, create new musical combinations, push the boundaries of music technology, and find ways to involve all members of society in the process of musical creativity.

OneBeat consists of a two-week Residency, when Fellows from around the world create original material and develop workshop ideas to engage local communities, and a two-week Tour, when Fellows give performances, collaborate with local musicians and lead workshops with youth and communities groups. OneBeat Fellows work with a diverse group of expert Collaborating Artists—including luminaries of classical music, hip-hop, jazz and more—to develop and deepen the scope of their collaborative work.

In 2012, 32 musicians (ages 19-35) from 21 countries gave 17 public performances for more than 3000 people, conducted a dozen workshops for more than 1000 participants, and appeared in 500 photos, 75 original short films and dozens of recorded tracks.


Tuesday, October 1
Abramson Family Founders Room


Register now!


A live web stream will be available on the bottom of this page.

The live stream will appear here.