Tag Archives: zheng

Artist Profiles: Mei Han

Mei Han

Mei Han is a zheng virtuoso. Presenting music deeply rooted in over two thousand years of Chinese culture, Han is transforming the zheng into a powerful tool for the contemporary international concert stage. She is a consummate performer, appeared with leading artists around the world in a multitude of musical genres from symphonic, chamber and New Music to traditional and World music, or from Creative Improvisation to electronic.

Han studied with China’s top zheng masters Zhang Yan and Gao Zicheng, and performed as a featured soloist for over ten years with the prestigious Beijing Zhan You Ensemble, the premiere ensemble of its type in China. Han went on to become a rare blend of performer and scholar with two Master’s degrees in ethnomusicology, from the Musical Researchb Institute of the Chinese Arts Academy in Beijing (1995), considered internationally the most prestigious institute for Chinese music studies, and from the University of British Columbia (2000).

Han wrote the zheng entry for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the premiere music reference book, and has published articles in numerous music journals in both English and Chinese. Han is the director of the Chinese Music Ensemble at the University of British Columbia, founded the Chinese Ensemble at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and has lectured on Chinese music in many universities and music institutes around the world.

A dynamic performer and innovator, Han has been exploring new directions for solo zheng and unique combinations of zheng with other instruments in a contemporary experimental aesthetic. Works written for, and premiered by, Han include the world’s first work for zheng and harpsichord by Janet Danielson performed at the Open Ears Festival 2005; the first work for zheng and string quartet by John Oliver, premiered at the Vancouver Chamber Music Festival 2004 with the Borealis String Quartet; and the first original zheng concerto by Dr. John Sharpley, performed with the China Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing, 2003.

A commanding virtuoso, Han regularly performs challenging new works by contemporary international composers including compositions by Minoru Miki, Yuji Takahashi, and Barry Truax amongst others.

Han’s career spans Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North America. Her performance highlights include the Kennedy Centre and the Smithsonian Institutions (with Orchid Ensemble). Together with Raine-Reusch, they toured to prestigious venues in Australia (WOMAD), China, Czech Republic, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore (WOMAD), and South Africa.

As an accomplished improviser, Han has performed at major international jazz and experimental music festivals, including the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Atlantic Jazz Festival, International Festival de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville and the Vancouver New Music Festival.

Han’s first solo CD, Outside the Wall of traditional and contemporary works, received critical acclaim, with airplay on CBC (Canada), BBC (Great Britain), and ABC (Australia). Her collaboration with composer and multi-instrumentalist Randy Raine-Reusch on Distant Wind for zheng duet, and Road to Kashgar with the Orchid Ensemble were nominated for Juno Awards (Best Global).

Han recorded Ume with piano luminary Paul Plimley, creating a rich and original musical language in contemporary jazz aesthetic.

Mei Han was one of the members of Vancouver-based Chinagrass ensemble Red Chamber.

In 2016, Mei Han moved to Tennessee (USA) to direct the Center for Chinese Music and Culture at Middle Tennessee State University.

Discography:

Outside the Wall

Distant Wind, with Randy Raine-Reusch

Road to Kashgar, with the Orchid Ensemble

Ume, with Paul Plimley

Redgrass, with Red Chamber (Za Discs, 2009)

Gathering (Asza Discs ZAN17, 2014)

Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music (ARC Music, 2016)

Web site: www.mei-han.com

Share

Mei Han and Red Chamber’s Globe-trotting Enchantment

Mei Han and Red Chamber – Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music (ARC Music, 2016)

Dipping into the wonderful world of Chinese music, ARC Music is set to release Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music by the esteemed zheng player Mei Han and all women musical group Red Chamber on September 30th. Appearing on the Za Discs label, Ms. Han has recordings such as Ume (2006), Distant Wind (2005) with Randy Raine-Reusch, Outside the Wall (2005) with the Borealis String Quartet and the 2014 offering Gathering with Red Chamber. Red Chamber also has the 2008 recording Redgrass, also on the Za Discs, for listeners to explore.

With the combined musical prowess of Ms. Han and Red Chamber’s Guilian Liu, Geling Jiang and Zhimin Yu, one might suspect that this “plucked string” ensemble is simply a traditional Chinese musical group, but that would be far from the width and breadth of the musical aspirations of these musicians.

Masters of the zheng or long zither, the pipa or teardrop lute, the saxion or fretless longneck lute, the zhongruan or moon lute and the daruan or bass moon lute, Ms. Han and Red Chamber’s members delve into just about every kind of music from the music of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to jazz to varied folk traditions from around the world and even slipping into the plucked goodness of Bluegrass.

Pairing elegance and pure passion, Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music opens with the jaunty “Dao Chuilian,” giving a listen into a 20th century Guangdong province, before diving headfirst into the quick work of composer Moshe Denburg’s “Dark Red Ruby” with its dashes of a klezmer and Balkan style by way of the liuqin or small teardrop lute and zheng by Ms. Han, pipa by Liu, zhongruan by Ms. Jiang and daruan by Ms. Yu.

“Xi’an Medley” is a lovely track comprised of a collection of tunes with names like “Melody of Plum Blossom” and “Moth to Flame.”

“Nokoto,” a tribute to Japanese koto master Tadao Sawai, is elegantly lush with the addition of Randy Raine-Reusch on zheng and Laurence Mollerup on acoustic bass.

Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music reveals more treats with the addition of “Girl Picking Flowers,” a composition by Red Chamber’s Ms. Yu, the Chaozhou styled track “Pink Lotus in Many Modes” and the riotously delightful Bulgarian folk dance “Gakino Horo.”

“Peng Baban” is a delicious traditional styled track from Shandong province. Other delights include the raucous folk tune “Sunny Spring and White Snow, “Datun Jelut,” a folk tune from the Kenyah and Kayan peoples of northern Borneo and the spunky “Dance of the Yao People,” a celebration of the Yao people of southwestern China.

Despite its rather prosaic title, Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music is a globe-trotting delight. Ms. Han and Red Chamber’s Ms. Liu, Ms. Jiang and Ms. Yu are truly impressive in their musical prowess as they are in the musical reach and well worth a listen.

Buy Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music in the Americas

Buy Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music in Europe

Share

Artist Profiles: San Chuan

San Chuan
San Chuan

San Chuan (“Three Rivers”) is a trio of three young and energetic women, Wang Yao, Sang Ka and Liu Yu, who play the Chinese zither called zheng. Founded in autumn 2008 and based in the Chinese capital Beijing, the trio is presenting captivating compositions of contemporary Chinese music.

The three musicians, Xia Jing, Wen Ting and Sang Ka are all trained on the zheng since their early childhood. The ensemble performed at World Music Expo WOMEX 2009 in Copenhagen and Europalia-China in Brussels (the biggest Chinese arts festival ever held outside of China).

The zheng, a Chinese zither with 21 strings, is one of the most popular instruments in China. Its tuning is essentially pentatonic. Bending notes by pressing the open end of strings is one of the main sound features of this great instrument. The rather unusual combination of three zheng shows a stunning result, as they unfold an exceptional, almost orchestral soundscape.

Website: www.sanchuanmusic.com

Share

Superb Chinese String Alchemy

Red Chamber - Gathering
Red Chamber – Gathering
Red Chamber

Gathering (Asza Discs ZAN17, 2014)

Gathering is the latest album by Red Chamber, one of the finest string music ensembles in North America. Red Chamber is an all-female group specialized in Chinese musical instruments.

The four musicians in Red Chamber are highly eclectic, open to wide-range of musical influences. I’ve seen them live and their repertoire ranges from traditional and classical Chinese music to bluegrass, jazz and esoteric contemporary western classical music. On Gathering they deliver an outstanding set of original pieces and traditional compositions presented with exciting new arrangements.

The musical influences on Gathering cross various boundaries. The opening piece sounds like a sort of Greek klezmer mix, while other times the ensemble digs deep into their Chinese roots as well as African and Celtic music.

Highlights include ‘Dao Chuilian’, a splendid Chinese-flavored piece. Another high point is ‘Madly Riding’, a modern acoustic worldbeat composition where the four instrumentalists demonstrate their admirable skills accompanied by percussion and other instruments. There is also the exquisite ‘A Dream of Africa’ where the ensemble emulates at times the sound of a kora. The spirited final piece, ‘Dance of the Yao People’ also stands out, featuring spectacular solos.

The lineup on Gathering features Mei Han on zheng, liuqin; Guilian Liu on pipa; Zhimin Yu on zhongruan, daruan; and Geling Jiang on sanxian, zhongruan. Guests include Gord Grdina on oud; Liam MacDonald on jembe, riq, dumbek, daf, bass drum, rattles, qaraqib (also known as karkabas); Sunny Matharu on tabla; Randy Raine-Reusch on gongs, bells, shakers, saz; Michael Viens on 6-string and 12-string guitars, bodhran.

Red Chamber is an outstanding Chinese string music ensemble featuring four extremely talented musicians that certainly deserve more international attention.

Buy the digital version of Gathering.

Buy Gathering.

Share