The Silk Road project – a musical fusion of East and West. Its founder is the world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma – his inspiration is to exchange ideas, to connect and inspire people. Yo-Yo Ma is no stranger to multiculturalism. Born in Paris to Chinese parents he moved to New York at the age of seven, where he spent his formative years studying music.
He told Euronews: "What I love about New York today is, that obviously it has such a collection of people from around the world and that there is a sort of constant interaction." The Silkroad Ensemble have played together for more then a decade. And with more than 60 musicians from more than 20 countries, cultural exchange is at its heart. Yo-Yo Ma said: "First of all I think to work together with anybody requires one fundamental thing: trade which is trust. Somehow you have to develop trust and I think part of that is that if you admire somebody: 'I love what you do, I'm not quite sure I understand what you're doing but I'm fascinated by it and it's close enough to what I do that I recognize how good it is but will you teach me?'."
The project is named after the famous Silk Road. For 2000 years the ancient route carried trade between Europe, central Asia and the Far East. Composing new material is important for the artists. 'Silent City' was written by Iranian group member Kayhan Kalhor. He plays the Kamancheh, a Persian stringed instrument they call the spike fiddle. "When we are together it's like really old friends coming together," Yo-yo Ma said. "It's like really quick exchanges. We do concerts and then we go back and think about what happened."
"We would visit Kayhan in Tehran or Sandeep in New Delhi or Alim in Azerbaijan so that we understand the society and the families that they come from," he went on. "That gives us a further, a deeper understanding. It's like meeting your girlfriend's parents." Yo-Yo Ma combines his role as artistic director of the Silk Road project with a busy concert programme performing with the best orchestras around the world. And yet he still finds time to help young newcomers.
"I love talent, I love seeing people with spark. If they don't have the spark I like to see them develop the spark," he said. "Once they have the spark, you know we call it the fire in the belly, they want to accomplish things. 'I want the world to know who I am.' Then the question is do I have anything to offer them? Well often not because they already know what they want. And you know here is an old guy who is saying maybe I can be helpful. To me its all about taking something that is really beautiful or transcendent and then sharing it with a group."