Build: The Power of Hip Hop Diplomacy in a Divided World

Oxford Univ. Dec. 2019. 248p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780190056117. $24.95. MUSIC
The U.S. government has been sending cultural ambassadors abroad since the 1940s. Early days saw groups such as the Yale Glee Club, the League of Composers Wind Quintet, and the American Ballet Caravan performing in Latin America. The Jazz Ambassadors program commenced in 1956, with Dizzy Gillespie and his band performing 103 concerts over the course of two extensive world tours, and American popular music proved wildly successful abroad. Although the idea was anathema to many critics, in March 2013 the State Department announced a program called “Creative Arts Exchange: Arts in Collaboration.” Quickly renamed “Next Level,” it would send hip-hop abroad. From 2013 until 2018, Katz (Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ) was the director of that program, and he provides a cursory history of previous cultural exchanges and an in-depth analysis of the challenges and rewards of expanding that work today. “Hip Hop Diplomacy” has been a great effort, with a positive and global impact.
VERDICT An inspiring study of U.S. efforts to bridge cultures and collaborate around the globe, and a reminder of the power of art to unite us.
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