Chinese musician seeks to make ancient instrument relevant to modern times

By Chen Nan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-05-20 07:38:10

Chinese musician seeks to make ancient instrument relevant to modern times

Wu Tong gives the sheng a new stage with his projects. Photos provided to China Daily

In a joint performance in April by Charles Riley and Ron Miles, audiences inside a packed hall at University of North Carolina, watched the American duo's street dance moves that originated in the 1980s. Accompanying the dancers at the show was the unfamiliar sound of the sheng, which was played by Wu Tong.

Wu, 43, produced a vibrating sound with the at least 3,000-year-old wind instrument in step with the fast-paced dance numbers.

The musician, who comes from a prominent family of makers of such musical instruments in Beijing, has spent decades giving the sheng a modern relevance.

"What attracts me most about mixing the sound of the sheng with other art styles is not only the creative process but also an interactive one," says Wu.

One of his most recent crossover projects was performing with celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, which was founded in 1998.

In the latest album released on April 22 by Ma and his ensemble, titled Sing Me Home, the sixth album by the Grammy-nominated group, Wu contributed with his sheng performance and singing.

It is the first Silk Road Ensemble album to be launched in July on the Chinese mainland.

"Throughout the Silk Road Ensemble's travels and performances, we have come to understand the wealth of creative potential that exists when cultures intersect," says Ma.

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