George Gao born in 1967, in Shanghai, China. He started his erhu studies at the age of six. A few years later, he won First Prize at the Shanghai Junior Instrumental Soloist Competition and a Silver Medal at the China National Junior Instrumental Soloist Contest in 1982. In 1985 he won the three highest prizes of the Beijing China National Invitational erhu Competition.
George Gao studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. After winning the first prize in the Beijing National Erhu Competition, George Gao launched on a truly international performing career. He toured the United States, Canada, France, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China extensively and was featured as a soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Taiwan National Chinese Orchestra, National Arts Center Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and I Musici.
George Gao is a reputable session player. His erhu performances are frequently recorded by many world renowned composers, film, and record producers. George is featured in the soundtrack for the popular science fiction television program Earth: Final Conflict.
An enthusiast of many musical styles, George organized the Beijing rock band Red Maple Leaf and the pop group Snowman. In Toronto, he collaborated with many artists including Jesse Cook, Donald Quan, Ron Korb and joined many world music ensembles such as Silk Orchestra, Earth Spirit Orchestra, George Gao Ensemble and Memento. He has pioneered the development of new music for the erhu, fusing traditional Chinese music with jazz, Western Classical music, New Age, and other ethnic music from different world cultures.
As a composer, George Gao has composed music for many films and documentaries. Recently, he co-composed with Brian Keane for Bill Moyer’s Productions/Lenon Documentary 3 part documentary film “Becoming American, the Chinese Experience”. He is also a songwriter who has a few hit songs in China. He has written many erhu works including Capriccio for Erhu, which was designated as compulsory work for the final round of the 2002 International Dragon Cup Erhu Competition.
Gao is the erhu instructor at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He is also a luthier, who invented the shaoqin, an erhu with a wider range.
Cheng Yu is an internationally famous pipa and guqin virtuoso. At the age of 13 she won first prize in the National Youth Competition for the Performance of Traditional Instruments. She was trained at the Xi’an Conservatory of Music in pipa and guqin and was winner of the Outstanding Performer award for pipa performance at the China Traditional Instruments Competition.
After graduating with distinction, she joined the Central Orchestra for Chinese Music in Beijing as a pipa soloist and has subsequently been elected Fellow of the Chinese Association of Musicians. In 2004 she completed her PhD in ethnomusicology (Chinese Music) at SOAS, University of London.
Since arriving in London she has performed over 600 concerts in the UK and internationally at venues including the Purcell Room, WOMAD, Edinburgh Festival and Duck’s Hall, has undertaken cross-genre collaborations, published three solo CDs, and takes commissions for film and TV recording.
She is also the founder of the UK Chinese Music Ensemble and London Youlan Qin (seven-stringed zither) Society and a member of the the Silk String Quartet.
Chen Jie-bing is considered by many to be the foremost erhu virtuoso in the world. Before graduating from Shanghai Music Conservatory in 1982, she twice won national first prizes. After graduation, she increased her popularity by winning the top award at the National Competition of Traditional Instruments.
In 1990, accompanied by the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, her erhu concerto The Butterfly Lovers won high acclaim among critics, by whom she was later affectionately dubbed the Itzhak Perlman of the Far East.
In 1996 she recorded Tabula Rasā along with banjo innovator Béla Fleck and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt.
Erhu Recital (China Records Company, 1984)
A String Quartet – Happy Gathering (China Records Company, 1986)
“The Butterfly Lovers” a concerto for Erhu-Gaohu (China Records Company, 1989)
Erhu and the Shanghai Chamber Orchestra (SHANGHAI AUDIO AND VIDEO, 1989)
The Art of Chen Jie-Bing (Wind Records, 1991) Spirit on Two Strings Volume 1 (Wind Records, 1993) Spirit on Two Strings Volume 2 (Wind Records, 1993)
Masterpieces of Chinese Traditional Music (Wind Records, 1994)
Masterpieces of Chinese Folksongs (Wind Records, 1994)
Masterpieces of Chinese Songs of the 30’s (Wind Records, 1994) Tabula Rasā (Water Lily Acoustics, 1996) Beijing Trio, with Max Roach and Jon Jang (1999) Hollow Reed, with World Unity Jazz Ensemble (2007)
Anna Guo (Guo Min-qing), a former professor at the renowned Shanghai Conservatory of Music, has been teaching and playing the yang-qin for over 30 years. The release of her solo albums Collection of Yang-qin Solos (1992) and Masterpieces performed by Yang-qin Masters (1995) established Guo as the leading yang-qin musician in China.
Her two books on the art of playing the yang-gin: New Yang-qin Music Compositions (1996) and Basic Course on the Yang-qin (1998) are essential texts for students of the instrument. Her CDs and books are available in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where they are immensely popular.
From 1985 to 1996, Guo was head of the Shanghai Women’s Silk String Quintet, a successful Chinese music ensemble which gained a solid reputation worldwide. The quintet recorded two albums and toured extensively in Asia and Europe.
In 1996, Guo emigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto, where she formed the Dunhuang Chamber Ensemble, which performs traditional Chinese music across North America.
Her extraordinary performances and profound interpretation and knowledge of Chinese music have won Guo both critical and public acclaim as one of the world’s best yang-qin players.
12 Girls Band was formed in 2001, after its accomplished players, all of whom studied music at the most prestigious conservatories and schools across the People’s Republic of China, and have played in China’s top orchestras, were culled from a rigorous audition process. More than 4,000 young musicians applied, answering ads that were placed in newspapers across the country.
The idea behind the group was to fuse the ancient traditions of Chinese classical and folk music with the sounds of Western pop, classical, and jazz music. The result is 12 Girls Band. Their first concert, given in Beijing in October 2001, made 12 Girls Band into stars practically overnight. Praised by the Asian media as a perfect mixd of grace, beauty, and musicianship, 12 Girls Band represented a modern-day representation of the Yue Fang, which were all-female ensembles that played in the royal courts of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE).
The number twelve has important meaning in Chinese culture, astrology, and numerology, and twelve jinchai (‘golden hairpins’) represent womanhood in ancient Chinese mythology. (There are thirteen musicians in the band, so that there is always a substitute player available at a moment’s notice.)
The musicians perform expertly on an range of ancient Chinese instruments, including the stringed and bowed erhu; the pear-shaped plucked lute called a pipa; the guzheng zither; the yangqin hammered dulcimer; a transverse flute called the dizi and the vertical flute known as the xiao; a single-stringed zither called the duxianquin; and the hulusi, a three-piped gourd flute.
12 Girls Band’s first international release, 2003’s Beautiful Energy, debuted first in Japan in 2003 and sold nearly two million copies there, giving 12 Girls Band the record for both the fastest- and highest-selling Chinese release in Japanese chart history. Their follow-up, 2004’s Shining Energy, broke another Japanese sales record with the highest number of sales of any album in a single day. The group went on to a hugely successful tour of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan.
Their first US release, 2004’s Eastern Energy, reached No. 1 on the Billboard World Music album chart, and scored 12 Girls Band the No. 62 spot on the Billboard Top 200’the highest-ranking debut for any Asian artist in Billboard chart history.
Since then, 12 Girls Band has recorded more hit albums in the Asian market: 2005’s Romantic Energy, and White Christmas, the first-ever album of international seasonal classics played on traditional Chinese instruments.
Shanghai (Manhattan Records, 2007) coincided with a very special milestone in the career of 12 Girls Band: ‘Live From Shanghai,’ their first pledge drive (these are fundraisers for American public television and radio stations, which get little or no government funding) event on PBS, which aired in June 2007 on stations around the country. Notably, this debut marked the very first time an Asian artist or group was celebrated with a PBS special. This television first was recorded live beneath Shanghai’s famed Oriental Pearl Tower, a spectacular tourist attraction along the banks of the Huangpu River that dominates the city’s dynamic, skyscraper-dotted landscape.
Wang Fei is an award-winning artist, published writer and accomplished musician who has toured internationally. Wang Fei was professionally trained in literature, music and art since childhood and studied with several masters in these fields. Not only is she one of the few scholars who have truly mastered the qin and who can bring qin music to a wider audience, she is also one of the few qin performers who still maintain the qin in the traditional way, as a scholarly art. Her elegant, graceful and peaceful style brings to her audiences the feeling of reading poems and enjoying Chinese landscape painting when they listen to her qin playing.
She has won several awards in the field of Chinese music and has given concerts numerous speeches, lectures, workshops and seminars on the guqin for many prestigious universities around the world as well as to the general public in China, the USA and Japan. She has written articles introducing the guqin to the public. Her music was included in an American textbook and CD on geography and music in 2003 to represent Chinese music. Not only is Wang Fei an outstanding guqin player she also organizes and promotes guqin-related activities and events.
In recognition of her achievements in cultural exchange between China and other countries, she was made an Honorary Citizen of the City of Baltimore in 1993 and a Daughter of the City of Maoka Japan in 1995. Over a hundred television radio magazine and newspaper journalists from China the USA and Japan have interviewed her and written articles about her. Her biographical profile was included in the Chinese version of “World Who’s Who” in 1998 and “World Class Chinese Intellectuals in the Musical And Artistic Fields” vol. 5.
Wang Fei is the founder and director of the North American Guqin Association (NAGA), a council member of the China Guqin Committee and one of the youngest members of the qualifications committee and examiners for the national guqin grading examination in China.
Wang Fei is also a well-known author in China. She and her two sisters have been called the Chinese Bront Sisters. Their book “Three Sisters’ Skies and Dreams” was a bestseller in Beijing in 1997.
World Culture Open and World Music Shanghai have joined forces with Cambodian Living Arts to bring world music performances to the public in China, South Korea, and for the very first time, Cambodia. From September 23 to November 11, a music carnival will unite all three countries in a series of world music festivals that are free and open to the public: World Music Shanghai in China, REPfest in Cambodia, and Better Together Concert in South Korea.
World Music Shanghai celebrates its 10th edition this year from September 23 to Oct 7, presenting world music experiences to audiences in Shanghai, Wuhan, Chongqing and Foshan cities through music sharing, creation, and beyond in public urban spaces.
With 24 acts and musicians from over 25 regions around the world, audiences will be able to enjoy a series of performances by eclectic artists such as Chinese pingtan singer and storyteller Gao Bowen, acoustic quartet DakhaBrakha from Ukraine, Somalian vocalist Sahra Halgan, Arabic music ensemble Tarabband from Sweden, and more. In addition to performances, the festival also offers experiential activities, where educational and family-oriented workshop that promise a fully immersive world music experience.
The festivities continue from October 27-29 in Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat and center for living heritage in Cambodia, in the form of REPfest; an international festival dedicated to World Music, drawing artists from around Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Japan for three days of performances, workshops and forums.
Developed and presented by local arts organization Cambodian Living Arts (CLA), with support from World Culture Open (WCO) and Mekong Cultural Hub (MCH), REPfest will focus on the Greater Mekong region’s “living heritage”; the art, culture, and everyday practices that shape people’s lives.
Artists of diverse styles and backgrounds from will gather to share their experiences and skills, and sow the seeds for future collaboration in the region. In addition to showcases and performances, there will also be workshops where artists can learn from each other and engage with the audience on a more personal level. The full lineup will be announced on September 27 and made available on Cambodian Living Arts’ website.
Song Seng, CLA’s Heritage Hub Manager, said “REPfest is a great chance to bring together artists and audiences from the Mekong region, so people can get to know each other, explore our shared heritage, and continue our stories together. Siem Reap’s temples, its status as the birthplace of Cambodian culture remind us of the thread between generations – our music, arts and culture came from generations past, and now it’s the role of artists today to build on this, create new work, and keep our culture alive and relevant for future generations.”
Besides China and Cambodia, audiences in Korea too will enjoy access to world music performances this fall. Inspired by the success of the Jeju World Music Oreum Festival in Jeju last October, World Culture Open is bringing another world music delight to Korea this year: Better Together Concert.
As part of World Culture Open 2017, a creative gathering of global changemakers, the Better Together Concert will be held on November 10-12 at the revitalized Old Tobacco Factory in the historic city of Cheongju.
Dedicated at large to the theme of empathy, Better Together Concert will present music and artistic performances that celebrate cultural diversity and togetherness. Artists that will be taking audiences into a creative wonderland together include prominent Rwandan singer-songwriter Jean Paul Samputu, Israeli acoustic band Gulaza specializing in Yemenite Women Songs, and the world-renowned U.S. vertical ballet troupe Bandaloop.
“It truly is an exciting collaboration. We have grown from two countries last year to three Asian nations today, and we look forward to having more countries and regions join in, and inspiring more international collaborations in the years to come,” says Kseniya Tsoy, from Connect&Collaborate at World Culture Open. “We hope the festivals will allow more and more people to connect with themselves and with one another, as music truly is humanity’s common language, connecting us beyond borders and spoken languages. Aesthetically beautiful and socially interactive, music is one of the most engaging and accessible ways to connect to our shared humanity, and such an amazing way to learn about new cultures.”
All three events are non-profit initiatives free and open to the public, and are committed to providing space for cultural exchange through music. The partners endeavor to grow this joint initiative into one of monumental influence in Asia, where the public can enjoy free and open access to world music performances and workshops, and audiences and musicians alike can discover new cultures in an engaging and enriching journey together.
Jie Ma plays Chinese traditional instruments: pipa and ruan. “I began my musical studies at the age of five and became a professional musician at age 14. I studied with the great pipa masters such as Fendi Wang Dehai Liu and Yuzhong Kuang and ruan professor Jiliang Liu.”
In 2001 she received her Bachelor of Music from the Tianjin Conservatory of Music one of the best music schools in China. Because of her talent Jie Ma was accepted exceptionally as an adjunct professor in the music department of Liao Ning Normal University. “During my stay at Liao Ning Normal University I was constantly invited to many colleges to give presentations on Chinese traditional music and Chinese folk music. I was invited to Japan in 2002 to give a pipa and ruan concert in a cultural exchange program.”
In May 2004 she performed at Herbst Theater San Francisco. From 2004 to 2005 she hosted a radio program on introducing the Chinese music at the Sing Tao Radio Station. In February 2005 she performed at the Pan-Asian Musical Festival in Stanford.
“I also began experimenting with different genres in 2005. In February 25 I played with the Citywinds Woodwind Quintet in San Francisco as a member of Melody of China a Chinese music ensemble. The concert combined western chamber music with Chinese traditional music.” In March 26 Jie Ma was asked to perform in an avant garde project titled Sound for Picture with the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra.
“In a continuing effort to explore different sounds of pipa I play pipa with different musicians in different discipline and forms. In addition to collaborating with other traditional Chinese musicians I have worked with many musicians of different genres such as jazz country blues and rock. I welcome the opportunity to work with other talented musicians to create new sounds.”
Red Chamber is a Chinese music supergroup based in Vancouver (Canada). The ensemble includes four renowned instrumentalists, Mei Han (zheng), Guilian Liu (pipa), Zhimin Yu (ruan), and Geling Jiang (sanxian).
On the album Regrass, the group performs stringband music wizardry exclusively on plucked instruments. The repertoire on the Redgrass CD includes Imperial Court classics of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) as well as contemporary compositions that include bluegrass, eastern European horo, jazz and other genres.
Although Mei Han moved to the Nashville (Tennessee) area in the United States, the group is still active.
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.