News / Arts & Entertainment

Silk Road Ensemble Celebrates Cultural Harmony

Adam Phillips
The diverse musicality of the Silk Road Ensemblesome hyper-traditional, some simply hybridmirrors the endless variety along the ancient Silk Road itself. 

Spices, fragrant oils, gems and silk were bought and sold along the 6,500-kilometer trading route that stretched from China to the Mediterranean.

However, cellist and U.N. Peace Ambassador Yo-Yo Ma says cross-cultural exchanges and understanding were the ancient route’s most precious products.

Ma founded the 31-member ensemble, whose members represent 20 countries, to express that spirit of exploration and sharing.

“What we tried to do in music and in culture is look at what do we have in common,” he said.

When Cristina Pato first played the Galician bagpipe as a child, she never dreamed she would travel with it beyond the villages and pastures of rural Spain.

"Being able to share my tradition with Sandeep Das from India, with Koji from Japan, with Kehan from Persia, and finding that there are way more fields that connect all of us than things that in my head were separating us, that to me was a turning point and a really amazingly enlightening experience,” Pato said.

Ma has carefully built trust among ensemble members, each of whom is a virtuoso within his or her own tradition. Yet they easily collaborate and improvise with each other.

“So one person maybe comes up with an idea, and we follow," he said. "And then another person from another tradition, another sector, leads and then we can go that way.”

Indian tabla player Sandeep Das loves finding common ground with his colleagues.

“It’s the joy and the trust that help us do things together that seemingly seem different on the surface, but are definitely inherently one and the same thing,” Das said.

The Silk Road musicians bring that inclusive spirit to settings both intimate and grand, such as at the Shanghai Special Olympics in 2007.
 
"It’s full participation because, as a philosophy, I think one way we can define any culture is how that society treats its least fortunate citizens," Ma said.

The Tanglewood summer music festival in Massachusetts is the ensemble family's primary residence. The documentary film Live from Tanglewood shows the musicians relaxing, workshopping, and performing as a group, in creative and unusual pairings and as solo artists.

What Ma calls “passion-driven” education is at the heart of the ensemble’s mission. After tours, Silk Road members often stay behind to conduct music classes in locales like China, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Brazil.

In the U.S., Silk Road Ensemble members offer workshops in conservatories and public schools.

Ma believes the arts help strike a balance between self-knowledge and awareness of the larger world.

“I think we want that to sort of be the engine that drives the curiosity," Ma said. "To actually find how many places you can call home, how many ways you can actually make something your own.”

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Suzanne Day from: Vancouver Wa U S A
January 14, 2014 12:43 PM
Yo Yo has such sweet joy on his face as he performs. Thank you for your devotion to peace and to music. You are so loved.

by: Donna Hanson from: Campbell River, BC,
January 13, 2014 10:04 PM
I cannot convey to you, Yo Yo Ma, how much I applaud your vision and efforts in this endeavour!!!!!!! The whole world just has to take note and follow suit and many of our problems would be solved <3 GOOD ON YOU AND A BIG THANK YOU! Let's hope we see a ripple effect! See, one person can make a huge difference!!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”