U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the launch of the new Global Music Diplomacy Initiative with a bit of fanfare in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, including performances by Herbie Hancock, Dave Grohl, Gayle, and even Blinken himself, who played guitar and sang Muddy Waters‘ “Hoochie Coochie Man” with the house band.
The Global Music Diplomacy Initiative is a multifaceted program that will promote U.S. culture, peace, and education around the world in part by sending American artists abroad for performances, education fellowships, and other opportunities to foster communication through cultural dialogue. The State Department website describes it as “a worldwide effort to elevate music as a diplomatic tool to promote peace and democracy and support the United States’ broader foreign policy goals.”
The initiative was “catalyzed by the bipartisan Promoting Peace, Education, And Cultural Exchange (PEACE) Through Music Diplomacy Act signed by President Biden into law last year” and includes several efforts to spread peace and communication through music, as well as public-private partnerships to “create a music ecosystem that expands economic equity and the creative economy, ensures societal opportunity and inclusion, and increases access to education.” Among them are the American Music Mentorship Program, which will bring international mid-career music industry professionals to the United States, a new Fulbright-Kennedy Center Visiting Scholar Award in Arts and Science focused on the intersection of the arts and science, and program to promote the use of English-language lyrics and music for English-language learning.
The initiative also includes “Arts Envoys” that will travel to the Middle east and the People’s Republic of China. Herbie Hancock will perform in Jordan in October to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 1963 Jazz Ambassador tour of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and he will travel to Saudi Arabia for a four-day Arts Envoy program that will be the first of its kind between the U.S and Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, the The Philadelphia Orchestra will commemorate the 50th anniversary of its historic 1973 tour of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with ensemble performances and residency activities in multiple cities in the PRC in November, and ten American bands will tour through 30 countries starting in October through American Music Abroad.
Other parts of the initiative include the Harmundi International Music Summit for students, music entrepreneurship projects in Ghana and Nigeria through OneBeat, and efforts to use hip-hop for conflict transformation in Nigeria through Next Level.
The new initiative mirrors efforts during the Cold War when the U.S. sent artists overseas, including many Black artists who at the time were forced to play in segregated venues at home. It also comes at a time when other countries are investing in developing their own entertainment industries, like South Korea’s K-pop, which has grown to a multi-billion-dollar industry and cultural export and inspired Saudi Arabia—a country where music performances were basically banned until recently—to invest in developing its own version of “S-pop” in an effort to diversify economic activity and rely less on oil. The country purchased a $500 million stake in Live Nation in 2020.
Watch Antony Blinken break out his guitar for “Hoochie Coochie Man” by Muddy Waters at the launch of the Global Music Diplomacy Initiative below, and for more information on the program, head here.
Secretary Antony Blinken Plays “Hoochie Coochie Man” By Muddy Waters