Music of Strangers – Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble
U.S.A. 2015

Opening 15 Sep 2016

Directed by: Morgan Neville
Writing credits: Morgan Neville
Principal actors: Yo-Yo Ma, Kinan Azmeh, Kayhan Kalhor, Cristina Pato, Wu Man

This was one of several excellent films about music which played at the 2016 Berlinale film festival. I’m sure I don’t need to mention, that very young-looking (born 1955) Yo-Yo Ma is a world-famous Asia-American cellist who has performed with the major orchestras of the world. In 2000 he founded a group called the Silk Road project to which he invites about 60 musicians from about 20 countries, East and West, to share music from their different parts of the world. They assemble, rehearse, and then hit the road, so far resulting in 300 concerts at all kinds of venues: open air, in villages, on a pier, etc. They travelled to 34 countries and played for over two million people. They have made six albums. Director Morgan Neville accompanied them on their latest tour, featuring several most talented musicians on unusual instruments, including bag pipes. He talked to them between performances, on the road, telling jokes and sharing customs. 

As the same time we also learn much about the life of Yo-Yo Ma, who was discovered by Leonard Bernstein to be an exceptional cellist at the tender age of seven. Ma says, “When you grow up with something you don’t make a choice; you just fall into it.” 

It begins with Ma showing a youngster a cello and saying, “This is my cello. Have you ever seen one before?” We meet his grown son, Nicholas, who supports his father’s endeavors. The group travels to New York, China, Iran, back to Boston, then Turkey, Spain, Jordan, etc. Besides valuable information, it extends an atmosphere of fun, definitely not work, although it’s obvious that all of these musicians are quite dedicated.  (Becky Tan)

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