News / Arts & Entertainment

Silk Road Ensemble Celebrates Cultural Harmony

Silk Road Ensemble Celebrates Cultural Harmonyi
X
January 13, 2014 4:04 AM
The diverse musicality of the Silk Road Ensemble—some hyper-traditional, some simply hybrid—mirrors the endless variety along the ancient Silk Road itself.
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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Matthew Wade sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his new CD, “Diamond from Coal,” his fourth album with his band, My Silent Bravery.