Wu Man and Kayhan Kalhor are members of the Silkroad Ensemble in which musicians from different cultures come together. The project is named after the famous Silk Road, which allowed different cultures to mingle over 2000 years as it carried trade between Europe, central Asia and the Far East.
Wu Man plays an ancient instrument. She explained: "This is a historic Pipa. It was introduced from Persia and Central Asia 2000 years ago through the Silk Road trade and this is why it fits very much in the Silkroad Ensemble."
Kayhan Kalhor plays the Kamancheh: "My intrument Kamancheh is a bowed instrument. The very different thing from other bow instruments is that you turn the instrument in order to reach different strings."
Wu Man said the method of playing her ancient pipa has been brought up to date: "You use five fingers to play and you need fake fingernails, which is a very modern way. This started in the 50s, with four strings and bamboo frets."
Kayhan Kalhor spoke a little more about his kamancheh: "The way it looks is probably a little different from western violin but it is basically the same concept," he said. "Somewhere along the road in the history, this instrument came out of Persia and went eastwards to China and Japan, and then westwards to Europe."
The variety of instruments makes this ensemble unique. It was founded by the world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 1998 in order to "exchange ideas." The members of the ensemble try to pass on their experiences to the next generation. On their Asia tour they took time to give workshops to young students. Youngsters aged between eight and 12, whose families cannot afford musical education, play in the Sejong Youth Harmony Orchestra and get lessons and the instruments for free.
"What I really appreciate is to work with people that don't have necessarily as many opportunities and chances to interact, to learn, to have direct contact in the creation of something," explained cellist Yo-Yo Ma. "I feel that these experiences, the reason why we work on them, is to make them memorable. Memorable for somebody else as well as for ourselves. For somebody else because you hope that these experiences form the individual."
The Ensemble is on a constant musical journey bridging the gap between eastern and western music. "It's a different kind of music," said Kalhor. "It's another language, it is very different, very colorful and it broadens your mind and your own musical culture."
In this film you can hear excerpts from Ascending Bird, arranged by Silkroad Ensemble members, Colin Jacobsen and Siamak Aghaei.