Sunday, July 3, 2016


Beguiling doc 'Music of Strangers' celebrates diversity, humanity

Some people talk about building a wall. (Okay, one fool in particular.) The perfect antidote to that mentality is The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.

This beguiling and bittersweet documentary chronicles the efforts of the renowned cellist to found a performing group of international musicians from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, whose entire existence is dedicated to both cultural diversity, and common humanity.

Filmmaker Morgan Neville won an Oscar for the fabulous 20 Feet From Stardom, giving backup singers — the unsung heroines of rock 'n' roll — their well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

He knows a great music doc needs to feature not only wonderful music, but dynamic personalities to perform it, and The Music of Strangers is incredibly rich in both.

Kayhan Kalhor, Yo-Yo Ma: soulful

In 2000, Yo-Yo Ma got the idea to search the world for masters of traditional instruments for a workshop and performance he wanted to stage at the prestigious Tanglewood Music Festival in Massachusetts.

Born in Paris of Chinese parents, and raised in the US, Yo-Yo embodies the spirit of internationalism.

His idea was to follow the ancient "Silk Road" trade route, from Venice to China, scouring the world for master musicians.

Cristina Pato: rock star

And what an ensemble he came up with: Kinan Azmeh, is a clarinetist from Damascus.

Wu Man survived Mao's Cultural Revolution in China by her skill on the lute-like pipa.

Iranian Kayhan Kalhor is soulful master of another stringed instrument, the Kurdish kamancheh.

Spaniard Cristina Pato plays Galician bagpipes like a born rock star.

The musicians (and the other dozen or so Ensemble members) are fascinating in the ways their various instruments, and their playing, as well as their diverse personalities, mesh.

And the music is often thrilling.
(Read more in this week's Good Times)

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