Tag Archives: erhu

Guo Gan Trio’s Stunning Collaboration

Guo Gan Trio – Gobi Desert

Guo Gan Trio – Gobi Desert (Felmay, 2019)

Musical collaborations hold a particular fascination for me. I assume that many start in the simplest ways with the questions from one musician to another, “Hey, wanna play some music?” Now I’m sure that there is the occasional “no” but really what self-respecting musician ever says no to a gig or to at least show off their latest riff? Music is this wonderful messy conglomeration of instruments,genres and styles that have crossed hills, mountains, rivers, regions and countries a million times over from the beginnings of the earliest flute or drum.

Ethnomusicologists, despite all the studies, scratched out records or archaeological evidence, are dependent on a fair amount of guesses or suppositions on the evolution of song or the origins of one single instrument. A disputed claim by two neighboring towns as the birthplace of a particular instrument can break out into a brawl if not monitored closely. In a weird way music is the big human collaboration.

When I come across these musical cross-pollination recordings, the first thing I want to ask is what was it about this other genre of music that fascinated you? I know what I hear after the collaboration is essentially complete, but what did you find that worked melding two different musical traditions and what didn’t work. My second questions is why must you print liner notes over photographs making it impossible to make out what’s in the liner notes.

There’s a wonderful collaboration out there available for a listen on Italy’s Felmay label called Gobi Desert by the Guo Gan Trio. Some music fans might have had a listen into the 2014 Guo Gan Trio recording called Jasmine Flower with Guo Gan on erhu with Rao Ying on zheng and Lai Long Han on dizi and xiao. Now the Guo Gan Trio is back with yet another trio and another sound. Teaming up with Turkish saz player Emre Gultekin and Turkish percussionist Levent Yildirim.

On the surface, to those without a little history under their belts, some might consider this an unlikely collaboration, but if you think about the Silk Road trade routes that stretched all the way from China through Turkey to its final reaches in southern Italy the musical sharing leap becomes easier. The Silk Road started around 114 BCE, so it’s not hard to imagine that collaborations like this went on longer and farther than we could have ever have guessed.

This collaboration is indeed a treat. Packed full of erhu, doholla, uc telli, bendir, baglama and tembur, Gobi Desert is a musical landscape that graces the lines of the elegance of Chinese musical traditions into the meaty, sinuous turns of Middle Eastern music, Guo Gan, Emre Gultekin and Levent Yildirim set up a collaborative musical space that is as entertaining as it is engaging.

Opening with the title track and Guo Gan composition “Gobi Desert,” the trio fashions a delicate hybrid that almost comes across as an elegant court music with picked out doholla in between lines of erhu and rippling uc telli. The effect is stunning. Equally exciting is the Emre Gultekin composition “Kogaoglan Pacarani” that blends erhu with baglama and tembur with some truly spectacular percussion by Mr. Yildirim so fans will not want to miss a moment of this.

Other treats include the erhu fronted “Chinese Bike,” the deliciously mysterious “Tera Kiya,” the vocal laced “Harput” and moving erhu solo of “Parting at Yang Guan Pass.” Wrapping up with “Biday derya” the Guo Gan Trio hooks listeners with the whirlwind of erhu, doholla, tembur and baglama with some additional guest help from Malabika Brahma on dubki and vocals.

This is a stunning collaboration and we just can’t wait to see what trio Guo Gan cooks up next.

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Fiddles of the World Come Together

Mathias Duplessy and Aliocha Regnard – Photo by Angel Romero

French guitarist Mathias Duplessy put together a fascinating project called the Violins of the World. The current version of the ensemble was showcased at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo).

Guo Gan and Naraa Puredorj – Photo by Angel Romero

Duplessy and Violins of the World includes Duplessy on guitar, vocals and throat singing; Chinese erhu master Guo Gan; Mongolian horsehead fiddle virtuoso and throat singer Naraa Puredorj; and Frenchman Aliocha Regnard, who is a well-regarded nychelharpa player. 

The ensemble played as first set on July 13 at the Theater Stage in front of a packed audience. The show was outstanding, exhibiting admirable virtuosity, bringing together European classical influences from Spain and France along with Chinese, Mongolian and Nordic European traditions.

Duplessy and Violins of the World – Photo by Angel Romero

A second show took place on the final day, Sunday July 14, 2019 at the Tree Stage, in front of a much larger audience.

The ensemble has several recordings available, including Marco Polo (2010), Crazy Horse (2016), Feng (2016) and Ma Goola (2018).


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Artist Profiles: Zhipeng Shen

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.

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Artist Profiles: Xu Ke

Xu Ke

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.

Discography:

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)

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Artist Profiles: Lei Qiang

Lei Qiang

Lei Qiang is a master player of the erhu. Born in 1960 in Shaanxi province in the People’s Republic of China, Lei began to play the erhu in 1975.

After studying at the prestigious Xian Conservatory of Music, he toured with the Shaanxi Provincial Song and Dance Troupe for 11 years across Asia.

In 1993, Lei settled in Canada, where he has recorded with several renowned musical acts, including Cirque du Soleil. Lei has also performed at numerous music festivals and cultural events throughout North America.

Discography:

Chinese Traditional Erhu Music 1 (Oliver Sudden Productions)
Chinese Traditional Erhu Music 2 (Oliver Sudden Productions)

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Artist Profiles: Jia Peng Fang

Jia Peng Fang

Jia Peng Fang was born April 1958 in Jiamusi, China. He is a virtuoso of the erhu (Chinese fiddle), and has played in hundreds of live concerts throughout China and Japan, as well as recording for movies, television and radio. He has also performed in the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York, and in Carnegie Hall, playing with the Tokyo Pops Orchestra and New York Pops Orchestra.

In 1988, Jia moved to Japan and enrolled in the Master of Arts Degree Program in Music at the Tokyo University of Arts.

Jia Peng Fang teaches erhu, composes soundtracks and continues to perform.

Discography:

River (Pacific Moon, 1998)
Rainbow (Pacific Moon, 1999)
Faraway (Pacific Moon, 2001)
Sho (Pacific Moon, 2006)
Moonlight (Pacific Moon, 2006)
Nocturne (2007)
Jia Peng Fang: Best (Pacific Moon, 2007)
Tomorrow (Pacific Moon, 2010)
Seasons: Jia Peng Fang Plays Haruki Mino (Pacific Moon, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: George Gao

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.

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Artist Profiles: Chen Jie-bing

Chen Jie-bing

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.

Discography:

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)

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Artist profiles: Tang-Hsuan Lo

Tang-Hsuan Lo

Tang-Hsuan Lo studied the erhu since age 9 and graduated from Taiwan’s Chinese Traditional Music College. He has won many awards and enjoys exploring the rich color of traditional erhu, as well as developing an experimental sound for erhu from its ethnic roots.

He was a member of Taiwanese world music band A Moving Sound.

Tang-Hsuan Lo appeared in several movie soundtracks, including “My Greeky Nerdy Buddies”, “Zone Pro Site” and “Faithball”.

In 2014, he released “Jazz Erhu: Hu Says”. That same year, Tang-Hsuan Lo released his second album “Taiwan Erhu, T.S. Lo” (Buda Musique) featuring live performances.

Tang-Hsuan Lo is a member of Hudagi Crossover Trio, founded in 2012. The trio includes 3 Taiwanese musicians: Tang-Hsuan Lo on the erhu, Annie Chang on cello and Joe Hsieh on guitar. Hudagi Crossover Trio perform a mix of traditional Chinese music, classical music, pop, and jazz.

Discography:

A Moving Sound (Motema)
Jazz Erhu: Hu Says (2014)
Taiwan Erhu, T.S. Lo (2014)

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