FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2023 · 7:30 PM
SILKROAD ENSEMBLE with RHIANNON GIDDENS at Balboa Theatre
Rhiannon Giddens, banjo, voice
Shawn Conley, bass
Pura Fé Crescioni, lap-steel guitar, voice
Haruka Fujii, percussion
Sandeep Das, tablas
Karen Ouzounian, cello
Mazz Swift, violin, voice
Niwel Tsumbu, guitar
Francesco Turrisi, frame drums, accordion
Kaoru Watanabe, percussion
Michi Wiancko, violin
Wu Man, pipa
Yazhi Guo, suona, Chinese percussion
This concert is part of The California Festival, a new, statewide music initiative showcasing the most compelling and forward-looking voices in performances of works written in the past five years.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
As a social-impact organization and home to a GRAMMY Award-winning musical ensemble, Silkroad works to inspire collaboration in innovative ways that add more equity and justice into the world through the power of the arts. Today, under the leadership of Artistic Director Rhiannon Giddens, Silkroad reaches new heights through a commitment to new music, a re-sparked mission towards cultural collaboration, and a reinvigorated focus on high-quality arts education that both reflects its mission and the times in which we live.
Silkroad’s newest initiative, American Railroad, illuminates the impact of African American, Chinese, Indigenous, Irish, and other immigrant communities on the creation of the US Transcontinental Railroad and connecting railways in North America. Exploring the dissemination of cultures across the United States, the railroad was to North America what the Silk Road was to China, the Far East, and Europe.
These and other immigrant populations played a fundamental role in one of America’s most important technological and economic achievements of the 19th century—and shaped its cultural identity—yet their contributions have all too often been erased from history. This performance will amplify untold stories to paint a richer, more accurate picture of the origins of the American Empire which profoundly reverberate today, and the formation of our multifaceted American identities.
Led by artistic director Rhiannon Giddens, each stop on the American Railroad tour will contextualize—or rather re-contextualize—the railroad through music. Chinese traditional music on the suona and pipa are contrasted with the fiddle and banjo of Black musical traditions, or their Indigenous and Celtic counterparts. These cultural intersections reveal a thread of commonality despite their varied origins, and remind us of the intricately rich American story.
As highlighted in the New York Times, Silkroad’s newest undertaking challenges modern perceptions of the American identity by highlighting stories untold and voices unheard. The program features new, original music written by Ensemble members and outside composers.
Yo-Yo Ma conceived Silkroad in 1998, recognizing the historical Silk Road as a model for radical cultural collaboration—for the exchange of ideas, tradition, and innovation across borders. In an innovative experiment, he brought together musicians from the lands of the Silk Road to co-create a musical language founded in difference, thus creating the foundation of Silkroad: both a touring ensemble comprised of world-class musicians from all over the globe and a social-impact organization working to make a positive impact across borders through the arts. Today, under the leadership of Artistic Director Rhiannon Giddens, Silkroad leads social impact initiatives and educational programming alongside the creation of new music by the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble.
ABOUT RHIANNON GIDDENS
Rhiannon Giddens has made a singular, iconic career out of stretching her brand of folk music, with its miles-deep historical roots and contemporary sensibilities, into just about every field imaginable. A two-time GRAMMY Award-winning singer and instrumentalist, MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient, and composer of opera, ballet, and film, Giddens has centered her work around the mission of lifting up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been overlooked or erased, and advocating for a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins through art.
As Pitchfork once said, “few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration”—a journey that has led to NPR naming her one of its 25 Most Influential Women Musicians of the 21st Century and to American Songwriter calling her “one of the most important musical minds currently walking the planet.”
Her third solo studio album, You’re The One, was released in August 2023 on Nonesuch Records.