Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Jazz Diplomacy

Louis Armstrong, Cairo 1961
© Bettman/Corbis

During the cold war the then US representative from Harlem, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., told the state department to let the world experience "real Americana" by sending out jazz bands instead of symphony orchestras and ballet companies. Headlined as the country's "Secret Sonic Weapon" by the NYTimes in 1955, the jazz ambassadors helped counter Soviet propaganda portraying the States as culturally barbaric. They included Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie, Count Basie, David Brubeck and more! Tours around the world from Moscow, Burma, Bagdhad, Cairo, and Zagreb were welcomed with open arms, minds, hearts, and ears. Depicted as "powerfully effective against Red propaganda" by Gillespie himself.

Read more about it here

What would we do now to amend the ubiquitous negative associations of our nation?

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