Bringing the Joy of Music to the Hearts of Kenya
During its first visit to Kenya, the U.S. Air Forces' Central Command Expeditionary Band, "Dune" entertained Americans and Kenyans in the greater Nairobi area, November 12-21, 2008.
Dune, along with the U.S. Air Forces Expeditionary Band (AFCENT) performed for Kenyan citizens at civic and educational institutions throughout the region. The band also performed for approximately 300 guests, including American and Kenyan government officials and ambassadors, at the U.S. ambassador's residence.
"We are here to help build relationships between the United States and Africa. They were into the music and happy to see us. It is very rewarding to be a part of a group that people show such great appreciation for," said Senior Airman Rachel Trimbel, one of the band's vocalists.
The purpose of the visit was to reach out to military personnel and to facilitate public diplomacy.
"This visit was extremely effective in allowing us to reach target audiences and strengthen and build relationships with a wide variety of people and institutions," said Ellen Bienstock, U.S. Embassy's cultural affairs officer. "We used this opportunity to reach out to some audiences who we have not generally been in touch with."
According to Bienstock, the good will built with their contacts will reap rewards when looking to program future programs and work with institutions on other projects.
"Public diplomacy is hard to measure, but it seems clear that we engaged in very positive outreach through the programs with 'Dune' that served to support our Mission Strategic Plan goal of "mutual understanding."
According to Beinstock, music bridged the gap between the cultural differences and during the rendition of a popular Alicia Keys' song the crowd danced and sang along from start to finish.
"The band adjusted to a much younger audience--starting at around 4 years old. They brought kids up to participate and engaged them in songs and activities that appealed to them," Bienstock said. " It was a great opportunity music is a beautiful thing as far as interaction.," Williams said.
The ten-member ensemble, deployed from Southwest Asia, performed many genres of music, playing tunes from the '60s through present day hits.
"We really put quite a bit of thought into the kind of tunes we could pick, knowing that there are parts of the song we could have people sing along or play percussion or come up and dance--that's where we get a lot of the interaction," said Technical Sergeant Michael Williams, keyboardist and musical director.
The band travels throughout Southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa to boost morale of service members and communicate through the universal language of music.