WASHINGTON, October 2 (By Maria Young for RIA Novosti) – If you can imagine a song that incorporates musical genres from all over the world, including a non-traditional Russian beatbox, propelling audiences to clap their hands and tap their feet, then you have an idea what crowds up and down the US East Coast have been treated to for the past few weeks.
“For me, it’s like a dream, all of these different musicians in one song, and the style of song we make is something you’ve never heard before,” said Dmitry Burmistrov, 24, a Russian musician who goes by the stage and Internet name of Masta Mic.
“It’s something beautiful,” he told RIA Novosti after Tuesday night’s OneBeat 2013 performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Burmistov is one of 25 musicians from 16 different countries and six continents touring the United States as part of the US State Department’s OneBeat fellowship program, which brings musicians from all over the world together for a month-long musical and cultural exchange that wraps up in New York City this weekend.
The group arrived in Washington on Monday, “just in time for the government to shut down!” said Burmistrov.
“I couldn’t believe it!” he added, slapping his hand to his forehead. It is, after all, the first time he’s ever been to the US.
“The timing was perfect. It was as if we had shut the government down ourselves,” said Tim Thomas, director of development for Bang On A Can, a New York-based international musical group which produces the OneBeat program.
“There are countries all over the world that aren’t getting along, and sometimes even governments inside the same country that can’t get along,” he said, as a packed crowd laughed at the reference to Washington’s current government shutdown.
“But once these musicians get together they collaborate and speak the common language of music,” he said.
Through such exchanges, Thomas envisions a more harmonious world though music.
Political tensions between the US and Russia, as well as political tensions around the world, sometimes makes his job more difficult, Thomas told RIA Novosti.
“But musically, we’ve never had a problem, and that’s really the only reason we do this, is to help shatter myths and open minds,” he said, adding, “It’s really quite poignant.”
“Since I have been here, I have performed music with a singer from India, a guitarist from China, a musician from Africa, a rapper from Senegal, and it’s fantastic!” said Burmistrov, throwing his hands over his head in a sign of victory.
Talking with him is a bit like watching a tennis match, as he stands first on one foot, then the other.
Tall and slim, he looks like an overgrown six-year-old who could have driven his parents and teachers to distraction just trying to get him to calm down and be quiet.
He is perhaps best described as a human percussion instrument, and fans around the world seem to love his energetic style, and the odd, rhythmic combination of lyrical pings, pops, clinks, zips and booms he creates with his mouth, lips, tongue and voice.
He rose to fame in Russia after winning a national beatbox championship in 2008, and began posting YouTube videos in 2009. He has well over 200,000 YouTube subscribers and estimates half of them are from the US.
He may not have a traditional Russian sound, he said, but he wants the people of America to know one thing about Russians: They are unpredictable.
“Did you see Russia? It’s very big. And the people are very different, they are not all the same,” he said.
The OneBeat program, Burmistov said, makes sense.
“It will be a good thing, because I have some publicity at home in Russia, and when I go there and perform, I will tell about it in the best way, the most positive way that I can.”