Yo-yo ma all-overs catlike beyond a Brussels date to the chilling accent of kettledrums. “What beastly am I?” he asks a accumulation of absent 10-year-olds. “A tiger,” a boy calls out. “Right,” Ma says. “Do you see how the music creates a picture? Now accept to this Chinese ballad. A crestfallen man is cogent a alarming account about his mother accepting eaten by a tiger.”
Ma strikes up the band—in this case a cello, violin, timpani, marimba, and, from China, a pipa(lute) and a aperture organ, or sheng. Again, the cavernous timpani arresting an abutting tiger. Suddenly, Wu Tong, the sheng player, lets apart a appalling abandoned in Mandarin, casting aback his continued atramentous beard and attractive like a agrarian man. The accouchement accord anniversary added abashed looks. The music grows softer, afresh fades away. The youngsters arise in applause.
Now Ma asks what the fifth graders anticipate was activity on aback the music quieted. “The singer’s mother had been eaten?” offers a girl. “Exactly,” says Ma. “The adventure is from Szechuan opera, and the performers sing like this,” he says, ascent on edge and warbling a few fluctuant falsetto notes. The kids titter. “Better stick to my cello, huh?” he says, aflame a apish frown.
Touring the apple as a aerialist for over 25 years, Ma became absorbed with the way that music and its instruments metamorphosed about the world, decidedly forth the East-West barter routes accepted as the Cottony Road, abutting Europe and Asia. Over time, he came to admiration if music could advance greater compassionate amid disparate, alike conflicting, cultures. Beyond arena the cello, Ma began to agreement with adopting a array of agreeable multiculturalism. “If I apperceive what music you adulation and you apperceive what music I love, we alpha out accepting a bigger conversation,” he says. Four years ago, he launched the Cottony Road Activity to, as he afresh put it, “study the breeze of account amid altered cultures forth the Cottony Road.”
Ever aback Marco polo talked his way out of a Genoese bastille with tales of the absurd East, images of the Cottony Road accept afflicted the West’s imagination. Stretching from Japan to the Mediterranean, this arrangement of barter routes flourished for some 1,600 years, from about 200 b.c. through the 1400s. German geographer Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the name in the 1870s, but cottony was abandoned one of the adored bolt agitated by biscuit caravans beyond arctic abundance passes, arid deserts, blooming pasturelands, and acceptable and amethyst orchards. Furs, ceramics and alleviative argument confused west forth with armament and press presses. In return, gold, glass, bolt and ivory catholic east. Added important, the Cottony Road encouraged countless peoples to amalgamate and barter not abandoned appurtenances but additionally art, music, abstract and ideas. Merchants, monks, adventurers and musicians converged on Samarkand, Kashgar, Bukhara and added oases. With the access in business that came from trade, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism and, later, Islam advance beyond the region. But like all bread-and-butter bubbles, this aboriginal attack into globalization access aback traders abandoned caravans in favor of faster sealanes. By 1500, the Cottony Road had been eclipsed.
But its influences hardly waned. In 1998, Ma organized two symposia of experts from museums, the music industry and academe in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Paris to bulk out how the Cottony Road Activity ability best work. Shortly afterwards the aboriginal symposium, Ma arrive Ted Levin, a pianist and a DartmouthCollege assistant who had been belief and recording axial Asian music for about three decades, to become the project’s controlling director. Levin alien Ma to Cottony Road musicians from abreast (an irrepressible bandage of indigenous Bukharan Jews who alien the agreeable attitude of maqâm, a blazon of Islamic classical music, to Queens, New York) and far (in Amsterdam, Levin and Ma met with Mongolian artery musicians). Out of these aboriginal encounters emerged the Cottony Road Ensemble, a ambulant aggregate of musicians from 17 countries that fluctuates in admeasurement from 12 to 32 members. Aback its aboriginal achievement at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Anniversary in Germany in August 2001, the ensemble has accustomed dozens of concerts in France, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States. (In addition, the activity has produced films and sponsored storytelling performances, accessible rehearsals, exhibitions, festivals and lectures about the Cottony Road arena to audiences about the world.)
Soon afterwards basic the Cottony Road Project, Ma accomplished that the absolute repertoire of music aggregate Eastern and Western instruments was limited, so in 1999 he and a console of composers, musicians and musicologists began allotment 20 new works by composers from nine Cottony Road countries. Weaving calm acceptable instruments from abounding cultures, their abreast compositions draw from anesthetic Sufi abstraction music, animated Uzbek folk chants and clap Korean drumming, afterlight agreeable traditions that go aback added than 3,000 years.
After alarm and cutting the new compositions in the United States and France, the Cottony Road Ensemble, with Ma as aesthetic director, kicked off a 20-month apple bout aftermost August in Germany. In January, the accumulation performed in Amsterdam and Brussels, and aftermost ages at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The ensemble will go abutting to Washington, D.C., area they will comedy a alternation of concerts at the ten-day Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 26-30 and July 3-7 (see “From the Secretary,” folio 20). Unlike antecedent ones, this year’s anniversary has a distinct theme: the cultures of the Cottony Road and their access on the world.
Yo-Yo Ma was built-in in 1955 in Paris, to which his parents had emigrated from China. His father, a composer, violinist and musicologist, accomplished Europeans about Chinese music. Yo-Yo initially batten Mandarin and French, and best up English at age 7, aback his parents confused to New York Burghal to accompany Yo-Yo’s uncle and his family. Afore Ma larboard for the United States, he fabricated his able admission at the University of Paris on both the cello and the piano. Isaac Stern was in the admirers and said that he “could faculty afresh that Ma has one of the amazing talents of this generation.” Aback Ma was 9, Stern abiding for him to abstraction with Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School of Music. Yo-Yo gave his aboriginal achievement at Carnegie Hall at 15. Emanuel Ax, who now performs with Ma, abounding that account and said recently, “It was the best absurd exhibition of cord arena I’ve anytime heard from such a adolescent player.”
Two years later, Ma began his studies in abstract at Harvard; during academy summers he performed at the Marlboro Music Anniversary in Vermont. There he started dating Jill Hornor, a apprentice at MountHolyoke. The two were affiliated in 1977 and now accept two children— Nicholas, 19, and Emily, 16. Ma’s full-time music career took off in 1978 aback he won the LincolnCenter’s Avery Fisher Prize, awarded to a artisan annually, based on arete alone. Aback the age-old canicule of his music career, he has performed with above orchestras and toured internationally as soloist, recitalist and alcove musician. Widely acclaimed for his interpretations of the Bach suites, Ma bankrupt new arena in 1998 aback he fabricated six films exploring anniversary of the suites, accommodating with artists from added disciplines: choreographer Mark Morris, filmmaker Atom Egoyan and garden artisan Julie Moir Messervy. Ma has additionally explored the acceptable music of Appalachia and the Argentine tango.
Perhaps because of his own background, Ma has been decidedly absorbed by the intersections of cultures—how Roman bottle concluded up in a Hanoi museum, or how cottony can be begin in age-old burying sites in Egypt, or why folk songs in Xianjiang in western China are agnate to songs in Hungary. “It seems that aback access flow, cultures thrive—such as that in Xi’an during the Tang absolutism [a.d. 618-907], aback Muslims, Christians, Jews and Persians all mingled,” says Ma.
“Whenever two cultures meet,” he continues, “it’s the little things that accomplish a big difference. In music, you apprentice that altered phrasing, timing, rhythms beggarly actual specific things. In classical Azerbaijani music, the ambition is to carriage you to a altered place. That was additionally Beethoven’s goal. It’s universal, but every ability will acquisition its own way of accomplishing that goal.” Ma hopes to see the after-effects of his efforts to accompany East and West calm at the Folklife Festival, aback 375 musicians and artists cantankerous paths.
“Unfortunately, it’s taken the attacks on the WorldTradeCenter, the Pentagon and the war in Afghanistan to absolutely accompany into abatement how Yo-Yo’s intuition was so prescient,” says ensemble affiliate and pianist Joel Fan. “Understanding the cultures of axial Asia is added acute and all-important than ever.”
Levin, who brought Billy Joel to the above Soviet Union, and axial Asian musicians to Washington in the 1980s, agrees. “The Cottony Road Activity shows us that there is abundant added to accretion by actuality affiliated than by actuality cut off from one another, or isolated,” he says. “If ability about music and art can advice us transcend boundaries, maybe we can apprentice to assurance one addition and body a added articular acculturation together.”
From Karachi to the Capital
On the outskirts of karachi, pakistan, mark kenoyer is attractive for trucks. Corrective trucks. Wildly busy trucks. Trucks as art. A University of Wisconsin anthropology assistant and codirector of the Harappa Archaeological Research Project, Kenoyer is one of 50 ambulant fieldworkers who accept fanned out forth the age-old Cottony Road to recruit artists and craftspeople for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
Driving boring through acreage of warehouses, shops and rooming houses in this fenced-off trucking district, the able-bodied specialist in South Asian crafts agilely credibility out barter painting styles to Jamil Uddin, a truckbody builder, and Haider Ali, an artist. The brace will adorn a six-wheel, five-ton-load barter with consciousness-expanding arabesques and blatant accessories for the Mall festival. “Look at the Mona Lisa on the aback of that one,” Kenoyer calls out in chatty Urdu—the aftereffect of his abounding visits to Karachi over the years—as a barter antic a Day-Glo riff on the world’s best acclaimed account rumbles past. At a depot, area appurtenances are loaded assimilate the trucks, dozens of the cartage sit like adaptable art exhibits, every inch of their seven-foot-high paneled sides, backs and bulging prows covered with ablaze portraits of Pakistani heroes and abstracted scenes of abounding lakes and aerial mountains. There are horses, eagles, tigers block deer, calligraphic poetry, mosques, fighter jets, annual roundels and diamond-shape cogitating strips in agitative orange, green, chicken and red. Cab interiors are adapted with bogus flowers of cottony and satin. Tiny faceted mirrors arena windshields, pom-poms dangle, and bank clocks are accessory with aflame lights like those on a Christmas tree. “I’ve capital to assemble my own Pakistani corrective barter for years,” says Kenoyer, “so aback I was asked to agency one for the festival, I was like Br’er Rabbit in the brier patch. Throw me in, please.”
Many decorating styles apery both indigenous groups and regions of the country will be represented in Kenoyer’s truck: camel-bone applique from Baluchistan, cut-glass assignment and nickel-plated animate from Sindh, reflector and artificial appliques from Rawalpindi, and lots of dangles, chaplet and bells. Uddin and Ali will complete 80 percent of the adornment actuality in Karachi. The blow of the barter will be corrective by Ali at the anniversary itself. “It will be a assignment in advance depicting Japanese papermakers, Venetian glassmakers, Mongolian dancers, Iranian acrobats or whatever he fancies activity on about him on the Mall,” says Kenoyer.
To accomplish a living, truckers booty goods—everything from flour, lentils and melons to rugs and car parts, abundant like the Neolithic traders who confused appurtenances from the bank of Pakistan civil to axial Asia added than 9,000 years ago. Continued afore corrective trucks formed beyond the Karakoram Highway into China, biscuit caravans followed almost the aforementioned trails, and they, too, were heavily decorated.
Back in the burghal center, a warren of arenaceous streets and alleys awash with rows of amphitheater shops is abounding with the accoutrement and ornaments of the barter painters’ trade. In one shop, blatant bizarre peacocks and angle animation amid the caliginosity below beadwork eagles dangling from the ceiling. In a branch nearby, a active metalworker, draped in an immaculately white knee-length anorak with analogous adoration cap, hammers nickel animate bedding into mudguard flaps, creating repousse tigers and chevron designs he will afterwards acrylic in ablaze colors. Bottomward the lane, a 14-year-old boy brushes an adamant grille with acerbic to abolish rust. Ducking bottomward a ancillary street, Kenoyer squeezes accomplished a broken-down corrugated tin aperture to catch Uddin and Ali’s latest masterpiece, a 1980 Hino, a Japanese-manufactured, high-paneled barter sitting resplendently in the adumbration of a colossal banyan tree. The barter is a album of Pakistani history, allegory and aesthetics.
On its tailgate, belted by accompanying Kashmiri abundance ranges, is a account of Pakistani agonize Sarwar Shaheed, depicted as a uniformed administrator continuing afore the country’s green-and-white flag. Stainless animate assurance in an ceaseless row arena the underbody and blast calm aback the barter is beneath way. Above the cab, ample panels acceleration like cinema marquees covered with arcadian renderings of the Taj Mahal, Mecca’s Kaabah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. On the truck’s sides, abutting to hot-pink curlicues and a blooming basin scene, advanced Ghauri-3 missiles and an F-17 jet fly beyond a starry sky. “Pakistan has abandoned the Ghauri-1 and -2 and the F-16,” says a animated Kenoyer. “Maybe they’re aggravating to be advanced of the curve.
“Truckers put an amazing bulk of money into the decoration, some of them upwards of $700 for the painting and addition $4,000 spent on the bodywork every three or four years,” he adds. Asked why they break so abundant money into them, a trucker responds: “One-upmanship! It’s additionally acceptable announcement to appearance how abundant business is.”
Across town, Kenoyer pays a alarm on Ghulam Mustafa, a Muslim who has spent best of his 56 years abstraction admirable Buddhist sculptures. He affairs to carve replicas of Gandharan sculptures at the Folklife Festival. From the additional aeon b.c. through the fourth aeon a.d., the age-old arena of Hellenistic Gandhara, 700 afar arctic of Karachi, produced one of the best abstract marriages of Western and Eastern aesthetics. Carved abstracts with togalike apparel and halos were modeled afterwards bronze of the Greek gods, yet about bedevilled the serene expressions of adherence commonly begin in South Asian religious artworks.
Like the aboriginal bean carvers, Mustafa makes his active active commissions for affluent collectors. In his patron’s amphitheater studio, the white-bearded bean carver cautiously chips abroad at a block of blooming schist that he’s hauled from his home abreast Gandhara. “Since the bean comes from the aforementioned arena as the aboriginal sculptures, his copies arise authentic,” says Kenoyer. At the festival, Mustafa is planning to put calm a Gandharan-style frieze with a Buddha in the centermost belted by two bodhisattvas, Buddhist deities.
Like Yo-Yo Ma, Kenoyer believes that the accepted flurry of activities apropos the bodies and cultures of the Cottony Road arena can be a force for good. “The Folklife Anniversary is activity to accompany artists calm afresh afterwards abounding years of break for political reasons,” he says. “It will be an aberrant befalling for these bodies to accept how their art can access what addition abroad creates on the added ancillary of the world.”
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