The album Sing Me Home (Sony Music Masterworks, 2016) by Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble received the Best World Music Album Grammy Award at the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards.
Sing Me Home is a companion album, developed and recorded together with The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, a documentary film from award-winning director Morgan Neville that tells the story of The Silk Road Ensemble and Silkroad, its parent organization.
The album explores the changeable idea of home, with original and traditional tunes composed or arranged by members of the Ensemble’s exceptional collective of global artists. Each composition invites listeners to explore the “music of home” through the individual experiences of Ensemble members, many of whom are immigrants.
“Every tradition is the result of successful invention,” Yo-Yo Ma says in the documentary The Music of Strangers. “Human beings grow by being curious and receptive to what’s around them. A lot of people are scared of change, and sometimes there’s reason to be fearful. But if you can welcome change, you become fertile ground for development.”
The other nominees were:
Destiny – Celtic Woman (Manhattan Records_
Walking In The Footsteps Of Our Fathers – Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Ladysmith Black Mambazo0
Land Of Gold – Anoushka Shankar (Deutsche Grammophon)
Dois Amigos, Um Século De Música: Multishow Live – Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil (Nonesuch)
Yo-Yo Ma was born to Chinese parents living in Paris. He began to study the cello with his father at age 4 and soon moved with his family to New York, where he spent most of his formative years. Later, his principal teacher was Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School. He sought out a traditional liberal arts education to expand upon his conservatory training, graduating from Harvard University in 1976. He plays two instruments, a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and the 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.
Yo-Yo Ma maintains a balance between his engagements as soloist with orchestras throughout the world and his recital and chamber music activities. He draws inspiration from a wide circle of collaborators, creating programs with such artists as Emanuel Ax, Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Pamela Frank, Jeffrey Kahane, Kayhan Kalhor, Ton Koopman, Jaime Laredo, Bobby McFerrin, Edgar Meyer, Mark Morris, Mark O’Connor, the late Isaac Stern, Kathryn Stott, Wu Man, Wu Tong and David Zinman. Each of these collaborations is fueled by the artists’ interactions, often extending the boundaries of a particular genre.
One of Ma’s goals is the exploration of music as a means of communication, and as a vehicle for the migrations of ideas, across a range of cultures throughout the world. To that end, he has taken time to immerse himself in subjects as diverse as native Chinese music with its distinctive instruments and the music of the Kalahari bush people in Africa.
Taking this interest even further, Ma established the Silk Road Project to promote the study of the cultural, artistic and intellectual traditions along the ancient Silk Road trade route that stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. By examining the flow of ideas throughout this vast area, the Project seeks to illuminate the heritages of the Silk Road countries and identify the voices that represent these traditions today.
Yo-Yo Ma is strongly committed to educational programs that not only bring young audiences into contact with music but also allow them to participate in its creation. While touring, he takes time whenever possible to conduct master classes as well as more informal programs for students-musicians and non-musicians alike.
In 2004, Ma won his 15th Grammy for Obrigado Brazil, his best-selling release that celebrates the music of Brazil. The success of that recording and a subsequent international tour inspired a sequel disc, released in 2004, entitled Obrigado Brazil Live in Concert, which went on to win a Latin Grammy.
Yo-Yo Ma formed The Silk Road Ensemble in 2000. It is a collective of internationally renowned performers and composers from more than 20 countries. Many of the musicians first came together under the artistic direction of Yo-Yo Ma at a workshop at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts in 2000. Since then. in various configurations. Ensemble artists have collaborated on a diverse range of musical and multimedia projects, presenting innovative performances that spring from Eastern and Western traditions and contemporary musical crossroads. The Silk Road Ensemble has recorded several albums and performed to critical acclaim throughout Asia. Europe and North America.
The Silk Road Project acts as an umbrella organization and common resource for a range of cultural and educational programs, participating in more than a dozen festivals, including the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2002. To learn more, visit the Silk Road Project website at silkroadproject.org.
In 2011, Yo-Yo Ma participated in the acclaimed The Goat Rodeo Sessions, a collaboration that brought together four string virtuosos: Yo-Yo Ma, fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolinist Chris Thile. The cross-genre album combined classical, jazz and American roots music. A DVD titled The Goat Rodeo Sessions Live followed in 2012.
Yo-Yo Ma’s classical music discography is quite extensive. An enormous boxed set titled Yo-Yo Ma: 30 Years Outside the Box contains 90 CDs that include his classical works as well as the albums focused on tango, the music of Brazil and other traditions.
The Silk Road Ensemble is a collective of internationally renowned performers and composers from more than 20 countries. Each Ensemble member’s career responds to one of the preeminent artistic challenges of our times: to maintain the integrity of art rooted in authentic traditions while nourishing global connections.
Many of the musicians first came together under the artistic direction of Yo-Yo Ma at a workshop at Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts in 2000. Since then, in various configurations, Ensemble artists have collaborated on a diverse range of musical and multimedia projects, presenting innovative performances that spring from Eastern and Western traditions and contemporary musical crossroads.
The Silk Road Ensemble has performed to critical acclaim throughout Asia, Europe and North America and has recorded several acclaimed albums.
Off the Map, out on the World Village label, features new works from composers Gabriela Lena Frank, Angel Lam, Evan Ziporyn and Osvaldo Golijov. Plucking inspiration from well worn musical traditions and instruments Off the Map leaps headlong into the fantastical and blazes a trail to a heady font of new music, a place where imagination knows no bounds.
Off the Map opens with three pieces composed by Gabriela Lena Frank, featuring Wu Man on pipa, Wu Tong on sheng, Colin Jacobsen and Johnny Gandelsman on violin, Nicholas Cords on viola and Eric Jacobsen on cello. Holding onto the threads of her diverse background (an American father and Peruvian mother with Chinese ancestors), Ms. Frank offers listeners the wildly wonderful “Ritmos Anchinos.” Colored with influences from South American and the Andes, “Ritmos Anchino” sends the listeners off onto dazzling journey filled brightly worked mix of sheng, strings and pipa. Wu Man’s extraordinary joyfulness and expert mastery of the pipa stands out as Ms. Frank’s compositions finds the light-hearted sweetness, fierceness and clever playfulness of the instrument.
Finding a darker place on the map, Angel Lam’s composition “Spirit Rain” takes the listener on a spiritual journey with Kojiro Umezaki on shakuhachi, Johnny Gandelsman on violin, Eric Jacobsen on cello, Jeffrey Beecher on bass, Mark Suter on marimba and Shane Shanahan on percussion. Deliciously moody in tone “Spirit Rain” fills quiet spaces with deftly worked marimba, shakuhachi, cello and bass. The effect is simply mesmerizing.
“Sulvasutra” is the work of Evan Ziporyn. Working with Sandeep Das on tabla, Wu Man on pipa, Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen on violin, Nicholas Cords on viola and Eric Jacobsen on cello, Mr. Ziporyn lures the listener into a mystical chasm, decorated with the lightness of pipa, soaring strings and the wondrous expressions found in Mr. Das’s playing. “Sulvasutra” discovers the powerfully dramatic, fantastically edgy and sweeping cinematic parts of Mr. Ziporyn’s musical map.
Last, but not least, “Air to Air,” composed by Osvaldo Golijov, hosts a whole host of extraordinary musicians that includes Jeffrey Beecher on bass, Nicholas Cords on viola, Jeremy Flower on laptop, Johnny Gandelsman on violin, Joseph Gramley on percussion, Colin Jacobsen on violin, Kayhan Kalhor on kamancheh, Dong-Won Kim on jang-go, Cristina Pato on Galician bagpipe, Bassam Saba on nay, Shane Shanahan on percussion, Mark Suter on percussion, Kojior Umezaki on shakuhachi, Wu Man on pipa and Wu Tong on sheng.
It goes without saying that “Air to Air” attacks the listener with full force. With rich Middle Eastern, Spanish and Eastern touches, Mr. Golijov’s composition attacks the senses with pure abandon. Lushly worked and elegantly wrought “Air to Air” glides across the musical map with astonishing grace and fierce passion, conjuring up a mental landscape that is just as elaborate.
Off the Map is sumptuous, magnificent and simply stunning, as if we’d expect anything different from The Silk Road Ensemble.
The internationally acclaimed Silk Road Ensemble has a new recording titled Off the Map, which is the group’s first independent recording, released on the World Village label. Produced by the Silk Road Project and In A Circle Records, Off the Map is a testament to the close collaborative spirit of the Silk Road Ensemble.
The album features new works commissioned from four celebrated contemporary composers: Osvaldo Golijov, Gabriela Lena Frank, Evan Ziporyn and Angel Lam, performed by fifteen members of the musical collective, including international stars Kayhan Kalhor, Wu Man, Cristina Pato and Wu Tong.
Off the Map’s release marks a highpoint during the 10th anniversary of the Silk Road Project, a nonprofit artistic, cultural and educational organization founded in 1998 by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, its artistic director. For this album, Yo-Yo Ma stepped out of the recording studio but offered his artistic direction on the CD, which was produced by violinist Jonathan Gandelsman and the Silk Road Ensemble.
“I’m proud of what the Silk Road Ensemble, this exceptional group of musicians and friends, has accomplished with Off the Map,” Yo-Yo Ma commented. “It has been a pleasure to be part of the evolution of Gabi, Angel, Evan and Osvaldo’s pieces over the last three years, and I think this recording is a wonderful celebration of a true and ongoing collaboration. Off the Map makes these four great works accessible beyond the concert hall, and I hope audiences will embrace the Ensemble in the release of its first independent CD.”
The four pieces recorded on Off the Map resulted from an intensive workshop at Tanglewood Music Center in 2006, during which Silk Road Ensemble performers collaborated with composers on new works inspired by sources as varied as Peruvian mythology, an ancient Sanskrit treatise, personal childhood experience, and the intersection of traditional Christian, Muslim and Arabic music. The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma has toured these works to critical acclaim in North America and Europe within the past year. Each springs from a musical crossroads, displaying a distinctive outlook embraced by the Silk Road Ensemble, one that seeks to learn from others’ traditions and reflects the multicultural reality of many contemporary musicians’ lives.
Embracing myriad musical influences is typical of the work of renowned composer Osvaldo Golijov, whose Air to Air culminates the CD. Raised in Argentina surrounded by classical music, klezmer and tango, Goljiov studied in Israel and now resides in the United States. Air to Air recasts four pieces originally written for voice for Western strings; percussion; the Persian kamancheh, a spike fiddle; the Korean jang-go drum; the Galician bagpipe; the nay (a Lebanese flute); and the Chinese pipa (a lute), and sheng (mouth organ). Influences on the work’s four movements range from indigenous music of Mexico to protest song from 18th century Sardinia; sacred song is juxtaposed with contemporary music through Muslim Arab melodies and songs from the Christian Arab Easter service, known to millions across the Middle East through recordings by the incomparable Lebanese singer Fairouz. As Golijov has described Air to Air, it is “music borne from community.”
For Golijov, the music and musicians of the Silk Road Ensemble exemplify this concept. “For them the connection between Western and non-Western is now almost a mutation,” he commented. “They’ve opened the gates of communication. This is good for music.”
Other works on the album include Ritmos Andinos from Gabriela Lena Frank, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow and Latin Grammy Award nominee who was recently named creative adviser to the Berkeley Symphony. The piece incorporates Latino/Latin American mythology, archeology, art, poetry and folk music into Western classical forms, reflecting Frank’s Peruvian-Jewish-Chinese heritage.
Evan Ziporyn, founding member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars and artistic director of Gamelan Galak Tika, contributes Sulvasutra. a devilishly complicated rhythmic work evocative of the creation of the universe, written for Sandeep Das, a master of the tabla or Indian drums, and pipa virtuoso Wu Man. Empty Mountain, Spirit Rain, a work inspired by a poignant memory of family, features a soaring motif from Kojiro Umezaki on the shakuhachi, a Japanese bamboo flute.
The composer Angel Lam. grew up in Hong Kong and Los Angeles; her works have been performed in East Asia, the United States, Europe and South America. The works recorded on Off the Map were commissioned by Carnegie Hall through the Weill Music Institute in partnership with the Silk Road Project. The world premieres were given at Carnegie Hall, New York City, in September 2006.
As part of the Silk Road Project’s 10th anniversary celebration. Off the Map‘s release follows a critically acclaimed tour of European music festivals by the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma in September 2009. Anniversary programming will conclude with an Asian concert tour in South Korea, Taiwan. Macao and Singapore in April 2010. The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma will tour U.S. music festivals in August 2010.