The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (2015)

2017.04.15

“To find out who I am and how I fit in the world that I share with seven billion people”, this is the idea that Yo-Yo Ma had to start this project (a documentary directed by Morgan Neville).

Yo-Yo Ma grew up in three cultures: born in Paris, descendent from China and raised in America. He brings together an evolution of cultural expression involving musicians from all over the world. There are various interesting stories from the backgrounds of the different musicians and “they share the common goal of both promoting and preserving their heritage while employing art as a buffer against the discordant upheavals that have befallen their homelands” (review by Susan Wloszczyna).

As the story-telling part the movie was not quite complete, it features beautiful performances from various talented artists (from Spain, Syria, China, Japan, Iran, and other nations) but fails to bring depth to each of the musician and leaves the viewer wanting to know more.

In an old interview with Yo-Yo Ma he expressed: “I have met musicians who share a belief in the creative power that exists at the intersection of cultures. These musicians have generously become my guides to their traditions. Thanks to them and their music I have found new meaning in my own music making.” (2008)

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The Silk Road Ensemble group is named from the ancient trade route linking Asia, Africa and Europe. The movie is a celebration of using music to preserve culture and break free of boundaries; exploring the ways art can both preserve traditions and shape cultural evolution.

This is one of the best documentary I saw this year and touches the soul deeply (other inspiring documentaries I saw recently are Happy People: A year in the Taiga (2010), Living on One Dollar (2013), The Art of Flight (2011).

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