Badma-Khanda was born in Inner Mongolia, China, in 1979 into a Buryat family. Her grandparents had to flee from the communist regime of the Soviet Union in the early 1930’s. The refugees kept together preserving their language, traditions and ethnic self-esteem. The songs she sings are traditional Buryat songs, forgotten by Buryats in Russia because of years of suppression of real national values and Buddhist religion in USSR, but preserved by Buryats in Inner Mongolia in its original purity.
Amar Mende – Traditional Mongolian & Buryat Music (Khankhalaev Gallery, 2004
Nayan-Navaa (Khankhalaev Gallery, 2006) Mongolian Music From Buryatia (ARC Music, 2008)
Urna Chahar-Tugchi was born in 1969 into a family of livestock farmers in the grasslands of the Ordos district, in the Southwest of Inner Mongolia, china. Being raised among horses and sheep and surrounded by head-high grass and sand dunes, Urna was imbued with a feeling of the endless expanse of the steppe. She learned hundreds of traditional Mongolian songs from her grandmother and parents. These songs tell the real stories of everyday life that is far from routine.
Urna still collects songs and stories from her home country, touring the grassland to find old singers who still know the ancient stories behind their songs. She lectures in cultural institutions and schools, bringing the Mongolian music and stories to the Western world. Urna’s own compositions have lyrics that reflect her love for the poetry of her native Mongolian language.
The Mongolian language belongs to the Turk-Altai family and comprises a variety of different dialects. The Uigur-Mongolian written language, using very elaborate characters derived from the Arabian letters via many intermediate stages, differs very much from spoken Mongolian.
At the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Urna studied the yangqin (Chinese dulcimer). It was during this time that Urna started her career as a singer, featured in the Gaoshan Liushui ensemble, one of China’s first and most interesting world Music projects.
Urna’s musical director, Robert Zollitsch, arranges and co-composes many of the sophisticated pieces. Robert performs on a Bavarian zither, adds percussive interludes, and Asian throat singing. Urna’s ensemble, many from other cultures, plays various instruments and sensitively contributes its own musical language to this inspired music. The result is a colorful and exciting mixture of intimate tranquility, deeply moving expression and eruptive power.
Urna’s release, Hödööd (In the Steppe), on the Berlin based Oriente label, brings the listener through the many moods and feelings of the Steppe.
Her most recent album, Jamar, is the Mongolian word for “On the way.” It features new compositions and arrangements played with zither, morinkhur and Indian percussion, featuring morinkhur-virtuoso Burintegus from Inner Mongolia and Indian percussionist Ramesh Shotham.
Urna about herself:
“My homeland is the Ordos district, a high plateau in western Inner Mongolia belonging to China. It was here that I was born in the last winter month of 1968 into a humble family of livestock farmers. As a child I looked after the lambs on the sand dunes with the neighboring children. Sometimes we lost track of our flock whilst playing. So to gather them together again we tossed lumps of sand into the air. In this way we sometimes caused whole sand-banks to collapse. Later I looked after calves in the plains of Shirdegiin Tsaidam where the thick grass grows tall. And so the first ten years of my childhood quickly passed.
In my country it is customary for the children to attend a day-school when they reach the age often. My parents now expected this of me. I got on my horse, presented myself on the neighboring house-hold and began to learn the Mongolian alphabet. Where I come from ‘dayschool’ means a particular family where all the local children gather to receive instruction in writing. Later on I went to a ‘middle-school’. It was too far away to ride to every day, and so from then on I only got to visit my parents for one or two days of a fortnight.
The school was run with the strictest discipline. Each morning, as soon as the sun rose, we had to get up out of our warm beds and go to lesson. It was no longer the bleating of sheep and lambs and the lowing of cattle which awoke me but the clanging of the school-bell. The years passed quickly. Soon I finished ‘middle-school’ and set my thoughts on studying. I got in the train for the very first time in my life and traveled to Shanghai. There I was, a simple twenty-year-old Mongolian peasant-girl, wanting to matriculate at the conservatory and unable to speak a single word of Chinese! So I diligently learned the language, took lessons on the yangqin (Chinese dulcimer) and was eventually admitted in 1990 to the Institute of Traditional Chinese Music at the Shanghai Conservatory. I was fascinated by the student life and getting to know what was still for me the foreign Chinese culture proved to be an important experience. During my studies of the basic music-theory, I found myself returning more and more to my Mongolian roots.
The Ordos district has been dubbed the ‘Sea of Songs’ by its inhabitants. I am very happy to have born in this particular part of the world. In my homeland there is no-one who doesn’t know our folk music. Its range is endless and the songs are sung everywhere – in the open air, tending the cattle, whilst riding. So it was that I grew up in a sea of wonderful melodies, fairytales and legends“.
Zhou Jinyan is a talented yangqin player with a BMus honors degree from the China Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and is a former member of the prestigious Beijing Plucked Strings Ensemble. Zhou was a member of the Beijing Plucked Strings Ensemble between 2001 and 2004.
In 2003 she performed at the Beijing International Music Festival and recorded a series of music programs on National and Beijing Television.
Zhipeng Shen joined Liaoning Song & Dance Company in 1959. Because of his extraordinary musical talent, he was appointed as the “First Violinist” in the orchestra early in his career. As an adaptable player, he has mastered the erhu, gaohu and banhu. He took on further responsibility as the leader of the orchestra.
In recognition for his extraordinary contribution to Chinese traditional music, he was selected as a committee member of Chinese National Association of Musicians and an executive committee member of Chinese Folk &Traditional Music Research Center.
As part of the Chinese Culture Exchange Program, Mr. Shen was often invited to participate in the “State Department Tour” as soloist or “first violinist” in orchestra setting, and he played over 20 countries.
In addition to being an established performer, Mr. Shen has composed many traditional musical pieces, such as “Joy of Spring” and “Dreams of Sarlbu”, which became part of the classic repertoire. At the turn of this new millennium, Mr. Shen moved to the United States.
Xu Ke was born in 1960 in Nanjing, China. He received his B.M. in 1982 with honor from the Department of National Music at the Central Conservatory of Beijing, where he studied under the erhu master Mr. Yusong Lan. He was the principal Erhu player of the China National Traditional Orchestra in 1983.
In 1986, he toured the United States as the music director of a good-will Chinese music delegation. His solo debut performance in 1987 with the China National Traditional Orchestra in Beijing Concert Hall caused a great sensation in China, prompting the media to dub him a genius Erhu player.
Since 1987, he has been performing as a soloist with many orchestras throughout the world. The superb technique, deep understanding and! exciting interpretation of the erhu repertoire has earned Xu Ke an international following.
Xu Ke is the first erhu master in the world to record under the RCA label. he participated in the album Something ~ RCA Artists Meet The Beatles. He also received a platinum disc award from the Hong Kong recording industry in 1992.
Invited by Yo-Yo Ma, Mr. Xu participated in the Silk Road Project in July 2000 at the Tanglewood Music Center. Xu Ke joined with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble for an Asian tour to perform at Hong Kong Arts Festival, Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei in March 2001. He was also the artistic director of Silk Road Music concert in the 17th Tokyo Summer Festival.
Xu Ke has released solo and ensemble albums, including classical music played by Erhu, Cello, Piano.
Maiden Mo Chou – A Fantasia (Pacific Audio/Video Co., 1988)
Song of the Birds (Sony Japan Family Club, 1997)
Sweetie (BMG Japan, 1999)
A String of Melodies (BMG Pacific, 1991)
The Yellow River/The Butterfly Lovers (BMG Pacific, 1992) Melodie Favorite Violin Showpieces Performed on Erhu (BMG Victor, 1992)
My Way rhu Favorite Collection (BMG Victor, 1994) Wind and Rhythm/Erhu Concertos (BMG Victor, 1994)
Zigeunerweisen-Erhu Classical Favorites (BMG Victor, 1996)
Elegy – Erhu Solo (BMG Victor, 1996)
Lullaby (BMG Japan, 1997)
Liebesfreud (BMG Japan, 1997)
Erhu Favorite Chinese Pieces (BMG Japan, 2001)
Erhu Favorite European Tunes (BMG Japan, 2001)
Horse Racing (XUA Records, 2003)
Liebesleid (XUA Records, 2004)
Think of Chinese Music of the New Era (XUA Records, 2004)
Xu Ke (XUA Records, 2005)
Preghiera (XUA Records, 2009)
Romance (XUA Records, 2009)
Le Rêve – Erhu Classical Favorites (XUA Records)
Min Xiao-Fen is a virtuoso on the pipa. She was a pipa soloist for the Nanjing, National Music Orchestra, and was winner of numerous Pipa competitions throughout China.
Known for her virtuosity and fluid style, she has received acclaim for her classical, contemporary and Jazz performances. Min’s solo recording, The Moon Rising was hailed by BBC Music Magazine as one of the best CDs of 1996. Her recording Viper – Improvisations with Derek Bailey was one of the Wire’s albums of the Year in 1998. She also premiered Tan Dun’s Peony Pavilion, an opera with director Peter Sellars.
Dizi flute master Wang Ciheng is the principal soloist and leader of the wind instrument section of China Central Orchestra of Chinese Music, Beijing. He also plays many different wind instruments, including the xiao (vertical flute), bawu (single-reed transverse flute), hulusi (double-reed with a gourd and two drone pipes with an interval of a major third) and xun (egg shaped ocarina).
Artist Profiles: The Taoist Music Orchestra of the Shanghai City God Temple
The Taoist Music Orchestra of the Shanghai City God Temple The Taoist Music Orchestra of the Shanghai City God Temple was founded in 2003. Carefully trained by the professors of the Folk Music Department at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, the members of the orchestra have mastered the skills in playing traditional music instruments. These include plucked instruments, stringed instruments, wind instruments such as sheng and dizi (Chinese bamboo flute), and Chinese wind and percussion instruments such as suona.
The Taoist Music Orchestra of the Shanghai City God Temple recorded a CD titled Chinese Taoist Music in 2007. The music includes simple, solemn and delicate Chinese Taoist melodies with traditional wind, string and percussion instruments. It is spiritual and relaxing music (also suitable for Tai Chi exercises) played by Taoists of the City God Temple in Shanghai.
Born and raised in Shanghai, China, Shao Rong first broke with tradition when she moved to Japan (she is currently living in Tokyo), although she maintains an allegiance to the Chinese lute which differs from the Japanese version. Although similarly shaped, the Japanese lute is more rhythm-oriented and played with a fan-shaped pick while the Chinese instrument stresses the melody and is plucked with the fingertips which are covered with special artificial nails.
Shao’s second move away from tradition is that she plays mostly modern compositions on her recordings. In addition, she utilizes a combination of ancient instruments – guzheng (a Chinese zither invented thousands of years ago, now normally with 21 strings), erhu (a very old two-string Chinese lute played with a bow, originally constructed to imitate the human voice, and known in Japan as the niko), dizi (a small Chinese flute from the Tang Age two-thousand-years-ago) and shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute) – mixed with modern Western instrumentation like piano, guitar and bass.
In 1998, Shao was chosen by the Japanese Agency of Culture to join Tempyo-Gafu, an Asian ancient-music ensemble, which performed special concerts at the United Nations and in major U.S. cities including New York, Washington and Los Angeles (the show was televised in Japan).
Rong was allowed the high honor of playing an extremely valuable thousand-year-old five-string pipa, the oldest one in the world which makes it a national treasure. Rong usually plays the pipa in the “Rinshi” style using all five fingers to create a tremolo effect which makes the instrument sound to Western ears like a mandolin one moment or a banjo the next.
Shao always excelled at music and by the time she entered college, she was considered one of the top musical prodigies in all of China. She began taking piano lessons when she was five-years old and started lute lessons at age ten. When she was in her second year of junior high school, a new music school was established under the wing of the Beijing National Central Music Institute. Shao, along with 20,000 other students, took the entrance exams which only 12 passed. Of those, five were selected to attend this special university. Shao Rong was one of those chosen. At the Central Conservatory of Music in Bejing, she studied under the legendary pipa player Professor Liu Dehai, whose mastery was regarded as a national asset of the country.
After graduating from college, Rong returned to Shanghai in 1987 and joined the National Folk Music Band as a featured soloist, and she won a top award (“The Artistic Excellence Prize”) as one of the outstanding artists at the Shanghai Arts Festival. “In order to experience a fresh environment for my music,” says Rong, “I decided to move to Japan.” In 1989, she enrolled at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music which led to her appearance in the Shiki Company production of “Madame Butterfly” in 1990 as both a pipa player and an actress. After graduation, her performance schedule increased.
In July 1998, she performed as a soloist with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in the Japanese premiere of “Marco Polo,” an opera by one of China’s leading composers, Tan Dun. This led to an invitation from the Sapporo Symphony for her to appear as a soloist in a performance of “The Great Wall” by Japanese composer Ikuma Dan in April 1999. In July of that year, Rong had the honor of performing the world premiere of Tan Dun’s “Concerto for Pipa and String Orchestra” at the Pan Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo which won Shao worldwide attention as a musician and led to performance requests from all over Asia, America and Europe. She also played at the Asian Composers Conference in Yokohama, and gave another Japanese premiere of Tan Dun’s work at the Suntory Hall Summer Festival. In addition, Shao is a part of the unique Li-Hua Ensemble.
On Shao Rong’s Orchid album, she is joined by various musicians including Jia Peng Fang on erhu and Naoyuki Onda on acoustic piano. The album was produced by Pacific Moon’s acclaimed recording team of Kazurnasa Yoshioka and Seiichi Kyoda. Kyoda wrote all of the tunes for the album with the exception of “Precious Moon” (which was based on the famous old Chinese classic song “Yue Er Gao”). Orchid begins and ends with two different versions of the tune “Wild Rose,” the first featuring the lute with piano and erhu, and the second placing the pipa sounds alongside acoustic guitar.
“I tried many new musical techniques on this album,” says Shao. “There are different styles in the playing of the lute. One is ‘bukyoku’ which is a very fierce, aggressive way of playingand the other one, ‘bunkyoku’ is a gentler type of playing….for the first time during these recording sessions, I played the lute with other instruments which are all of western origin like guitar, piano, bass and drums.”
Sa Dingding was born in Inner Mongolia (China) to a Mongolian mother and a Chinese father. She is a multi-instrumentalist, playing the zhen (a Chinese zither with 25 strings), Chinese drum, Chinese gong and horse-head fiddle (a bow-stringed instrumental with a scroll carved like a horse’s head). Her musical mentors include the famous Chinese music producers Zhang Hong Guang and He Xun Tian.
At age 18, she released her debut album and quickly earned repute as the Best Dance Music Singer in China. By 1998, her curiosity in Buddhism, Dyana Yoga and Sanskrit unleashed her creative spirit and pushed her musical boundaries. Buddhism taught her to express with her heart and connect with nature, the meditations of yoga built up her inner peace and spiritual being, and learning Sanskrit encouraged her to create her own language, where new words formed from emotions evoked by music.
She is also well versed in Tibetan chanting and chorus singing in the near-extinct Lagu language. Her secret to honing so many disciplines is solemnity. “Loneliness is the best way for me to become more creative,” she said.
Sa Dingding created a powerful and sophisticated sound by fusing the music of Chinese folk traditions and minority religions – including Tibetan Buddhism – with Western dance music and electronica. This is overlaid with her strong, haunting voice to create a uniquely appealing sound.
In 2008 she won the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award in the Asia/Pacific category for her Alive (Universal, 2007) album released by Wrasse Records in the UK.
Sa Dingding’s albums newer albums have become more pop oriented.