State Department Sending Toki Wright to Sierra Leone in the Only Cultural Exchange in That African Country This Year; Trek for Head of McNally Smith College of Music Hip-Hop Program to Dispel Myths and Educate About Globally Popular Music Genre

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ST. PAUL , MINN., — April 30, 2013 — A leading ambassador for American Hip-Hop culture will travel to the land of Hip-Hop’s ancient roots in Africa when the United States Department of State sends Rhymesayers Entertainment Hip-Hop Recording Artist, writer and educator Toki Wright to Sierra Leone May 6-18. Wright, who heads the nation’s First Fully Accredited Hip-Hop Studies Program in the U.S. at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, will work with aspiring young artists in the cities of Kenema and Freetown and perform in concert with the country’s leading Afro-Pop/Reggae star, Emerson Bockarie. Wright’s trip, organized by the state department’s Arts Envoy Program, is the only one arranged for that African country in 2013.

“I am honored to participate in The U.S. State Department’s Cultural Exchange program which each year sends artist from the U.S. around the world to show global audiences the breadth of US culture,” Wrights says. “The main objective is to share Hip-Hop and its origins while also educating about and changing the many negative perceptions of Hip-Hop by developing young artists and encouraging expression.””
While in country, Wright will also do radio and television interviews as well as meet with the U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Michael Owen; members of civil society organizations; the education sector; and government leaders. He will be working primarily with two groups of young artists between the ages of 13-25 in Kenema and Freetown, followed by recording sessions and concerts in two large venues in both cities.

Educational And Cultural Affairs Bureau, Embassy, Impressed with Wright’s Many Credentials

According to Boa Lee, the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Wright was an “outstanding choice” for the exchange, based on his many experiences, the Hip-Hop program he helped launch at McNally Smith, and a similar trip to Shenyang Conservatory in Shenyang, China, in early 2011.

“The Embassy, through and in collaboration with the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau (ECA) invited Toki Wright to participate in the Sierra Leone program because of Toki’s background as an award-winning hip-hop artist,” noted Lee. “His prior experience working with a similar Department of State exchanges, his role as an educator in Hip-Hop studies at McNally Smith, and past involvement in programming for youth in Uganda, made him an ideal choice.”

“The ECU was also very impressed with Toki’s close work with the youth population and on issues related to youth empowerment in the Yo! The Movement, Lee continued. “We also heard about Toki because of his reputation in the Hip-Hop community. And finally, there is a growing population of Sierra Leoneans now living, working, or attending school in the Twin Cities, and Toki lives and works in Minnesota”

About the Arts Envoy Program

Toki Wright is coming to Sierra Leone in early May to do a two-week program through the Department’s Arts Envoy Program, managed and funded through the Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau (ECA). The Arts Envoy Program is an arts-based exchange program that sends American arts professionals abroad with the goal of shared cultural appreciation, including sharing the best of the American arts community with the world to foster cross-cultural understanding and collaboration, and to demonstrate shared values and aspirations. Artists – performing artists, musicians, visual artists, etc. – from the U.S. go abroad and conduct workshops on the art form, mentor young people, and give performances.

About McNally Smith College of Music —

McNally Smith College of Music offers a variety of degree programs in Music Performance, Recording Technology, Music Composition, Music Business and other areas. It also offers a Masters of Performance degree. Its alumni are working all over the world performing, recording, producing, being covered by media and leading successful lives in the music industry.

The music college’s diverse faculty includes:

  • Grammy® Award nominees
  • Hollywood film composers
  • Broadway veterans
  • Players in Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion”
  • Assorted Nashville Cats
  • Best-selling Jazz artists
  • Authors, major label rockers, Billboard chart toppers, commissioned composers, accomplished producers and engineers who have worked with everyone from Atmosphere, Prince, Phil Collins and Aretha Franklin to Yanni, Paula Abdul, Dick Dale and countless other rockers, combos, orchestra musicians, recording label figures, and industry executives who care deeply about their art and the next generation of music makers.
  • With more than 600 students and a 125-member faculty and the only Hip-Hop diploma program in the country, McNally Smith students get a personalized music education that combines musical artistry and wide access to current music technology, research tools and performance facilities.

For more information — or to interview Toki Wright about his cultural exchange trip to Africa — please contact Martin Keller, Media Savant Communications Co., 612-729-8585,

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