[Art in Embassies] actualizes the value of cultural exchange, creating relationships rooted in ideals that go beyond language and that may make the difference when individuals, organizations, or governments must make the decision whether to turn away or engage. As Louis Armstrong says, a note is a note in any language. If we all understand the music, perhaps that establishes the trust, and opens the door, for us to understand more.

– Regina Bain

Regina Bain

In the 1950s and 1960s, the State Department sent a number of musicians, including Louis Armstrong, on international tours of American goodwill across the Middle East and North Africa, earning them the nickname Jazz Ambassadors. In February 2023, Art in Embassies sent Regina Bain from the Louis Armstrong House Museum to Manama, Bahrain, to conduct a series of events and presentations about the historical legacy of that period in cultural exchange and diplomacy. 

LocationManama, Bahrain
Project TypeArtist Exchange
Cultural Connections

Over the course of several days in Bahrain, Bain presented to a broad range of groups, including high school students at the international school, Bahraini citizens at the Sheikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, and guests at the U.S. Embassy and Residence of Steven Bondy, the U.S. Ambassador in Manama. She also met with important cultural figures in Bahrain such as Farrah Mattar, Director of Arts and Cultural Programs at Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, and Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, founder of the Sheikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research.

Bain shared with Art in Embassies that while she presented on Louis Armstrong’s cultural diplomacy to a class of high school students, she taught the group a rhythmic clap called the 3/2 clave as an example of the music styles that influenced the rise of jazz. When the presentation was over, the students applauded her with that same 3/2 clap she had taught. It was, as she said, “a sign that the students learned and valued the material in a way that will remain with them for a very long time.”

“Our world is moved by economic, environmental, and cultural forces which we must be a part of if we are to be prepared for critical moments of change and decision-making. Cultural understanding is essential. Creative production is a core component of culture.”

– Regina Bain