LANGKAWI, Malaysia -- While all eyes are set on the skies for the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019, the Air Force Band of the Pacific, from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, drew their own crowd as they entertained guests across Langkawi, Malaysia from March 25-30, 2019.
Their performances spanned a wide scope, from dignitaries to children and community elders to statesmen. The nine-person ensemble played six concerts with a medley of songs ranging in genres from the current top 40 to classic rock.
“Our mission here is to help strengthen our partnership with Malaysia,” said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Brush, U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific trumpet player. “We support our partnership here Langkawi through three avenues. First is through the LIMA airshow by playing music for the crowds on behalf of the Malaysian government; the second is via community outreach by performing concerts in the local area, and finally by meeting distinguished visitors and government officials.”
Malaysia is a significant regional partner to the U.S., and together they share a diverse and expanding partnership in trade, security, environmental cooperation, as well as educational and cultural relations.
To enable the continued goodwill between the two countries, the band uses a persuasive approach to enhance international relations and build cross-cultural trust.
“Music is the international language that everyone can recognize,” said Brush. “It is the vehicle we use that allows us to connect with our partners and come together, as it overcomes cultural barriers.”
The Air Force Band of the Pacific, stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, is one of two bands in the United States Air Force that covers the Indo-Pacific region. With an associate unit in Japan, their influence spans 36 nations spread across 53 percent of the Earth's surface with more than 1,000 unique languages spoken.
Sometimes, connecting with the audience means band members have to step out of their comfort zone.
“Our lead singer, Staff Sgt. Rachel Wilson, performed the Malaysian National Independence Day song,” said Brush. “That song gained the biggest reaction from the crowds, drawing in people and getting them to sing along. Rachel learned and sang it in Malay, and I feel it helped them understand that we are interested in them and we care about continuing to build a relationship with our partner nation.”
The U.S. Air Force has used music for decades as an effective diplomatic tool. Music, in and of itself, has an innate quality to exist without language barriers and bring people together despite seemingly vast differences. And with their performances around Langkawi, the Air Force Band of the Pacific surely sharpened that tool.