SIFF Face The Music 2016 Preview: The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble

Janice Headley

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble(Directed by Morgan Neville, USA, 2015, 96 minutes)

Festival screenings:Saturday, May 28th at 3:30 PM - Shoreline Community College Theater Sunday, May 29th at 7:00 PM - SIFF Cinema Uptown

"We don't speak perfect English, or perfect Chinese, or perfect Persian, but we speak perfect music language." -- Wu Man, The Silk Road Ensemble

The Silk Road is an ancient trade route dating all the way back to the Han Dynasty of China (206 BC – 220 AD), connecting China to Eastern Europe. While it was created to allow the transport of goods transcontinentally, it also resulted in an exchange of cultures.

Inspired by this Euro-Asia connection, in 2000, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma formed the musical collective The Silk Road Ensemble. The group features a rotating cast of about 60 musicians, across 20 different countries. And, much like the historic roadways across the continent, the music they create combines cultures, using instruments like a Chinese lute, a Japanese bamboo flute, a Mongolian horse head fiddle, and so much more.In an interview with PBS, Yo-Yo Ma explains, "The Silk Road Ensemble helps us to answer the question ‘Who are we and how do we fit in the world?’ We came from hometowns around the globe, and what we found is that while we didn’t necessarily have histories in common, we did share a language of music and of culture. Our sense of coming together across time and geography is apparent on stage."

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (of previous SIFF Face the Music film 20 Feet from Stardom) paints a portrait of this boundary-breaking group. While the film wasn't available for a press screening, the idea that music can unite us is definitely one KEXP stands behind.

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