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Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon
Sandeep DAS and Indrajit DEY, arranged by LJOVA

Mohini (Enchatnment) [1:47]
Ensemble Improvisation

Oasis [3:00]
Zhao JIPING and Zhao LIN

Distant Green Valley [7:06]
Georgian/Armenian traditional, arranged Gevorg DABAGHYAN

Akhalqalaqi Dance [1:22]

Echoes of a Lost City [1:18]
Kayhan Kalhor, arranged LJOVA

Mountains are Far Away [6:09]
Kazakh/Chinese traditional, arranged Zhao LIN

Yanzi (Swallow Song) [3:25]
Zhao LIN

Battle Remembered [4:00]

Summer in the High Grassland [4:37]

Kor Arab [4:08]

Shikasta (Minstrel’s Song) [1:48]
Turkish traditional, arranged Shane SHANAHAN

Night at the Caravanserai [7:56]

Gallop of a Thousand Horses [5:07]
Sandeep DAS

Tarang (Currents) [6:27]

Sacred Cloud Music [5:30]
Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble: Siamak Aghaei (santur), Nicholas Cords (viola), Gevorg Dabaghyan (duduk), Sandeep das (tabla), Nilanjana Dey (vocal), Fakhruddin Dholpuri (sarangi), Jason Duckles (cello), Joel Fan (piano, percussion), Jonathan Gandelsman (violin), Joseph Gramley (percussion), Rauf Islamov (kamancheh), Colin Jacobsen (violin), Siamak Jahangiry (ney), Kayhan Kalhor (kamancheh), Ljova (viola), Yo-Yo-Ma (cello), Max Mandel (viola), Malik Mansurov (tar), Giulia Mashurova (harp), Alim Qasimov (vocal, daf), Shane Shanahan (percussion), Mark Suter (percussion), Kojiro Umezaki (shakahuchi), Wu Man (pipa), Wu Tong (sheng, vocal, xun, bawu), DaXun Zhang (bass); Alan Pierson, conductor.
Recorded: Right Track Studios, New York, September 20-26, 2004.
SONY CLASSICAL SD 93962 [63:33]

It was the German, Ferdinand von Richthofen who first invented the term ‘Silk Road’ towards the end of the Nineteenth Century. It represents the complex of trade routes (the ‘Silk Road’ was never a single road) which, for centuries, linked East and West, from Constantinople and Aleppo in the West to China in the East. It incorporates into its web southern Iran and parts of the Indian sub-continent, as well as the steppes of central Asia. Along these routes there passed not only goods and money, but religious and cultural ideas, stories and beliefs and, indeed, musical instruments and practices.

Yo-Yo Ma’s ‘Silk Road Project’, first conceived in 1998, seeks to do something, in the changed modern world, to replicate some of those processes of interchange, to allow mutual discovery to happen, for musical traditions to recognise both their similarities and their differences, to listen and to play together and, in doing so, to keep alive their own traditions as well as creating music which doesn’t lie within any one of those traditions.

It is probably only the name and presence of Yo-Yo Ma (and that the CD appears on the Sony CLASSICAL label) that gets music such as this noticed in the pages/web-pages of the Western classical media. I suppose it might just as well be considered under the rubric of ‘World Music’.

I would hope, though, that listeners whose normal fare is music within the western classical tradition would be sufficiently open-minded to give this CD an attentive listen – if they did then most, I feel confident, would find things to enjoy and to fascinate them. This is music produced through genuine collaboration and creativity; it is not merely ‘exotic’ sounds dished up for the western ear. Nor is it a case of Yo-Yo Ma ‘accompanied’ by musicians from outside the western classical tradition. Though the whole project is no doubt dependent on him, his ideas, his energy and – let’s be honest – his name, this is no ego-trip for Yo-Yo Ma. He is by no means the dominant performer here; on most of the tracks he is simply one of the ensemble, on some he doesn’t appear at all.

The 15 pieces on the CD are divided into three sections – headed ‘Enchantment’, ‘Origins’ and ‘New Beginnings’, but I am not sure that these point to anything very ‘real’ in the way of division or development. Some pieces are very brief and feel undeveloped, but many are utterly convincing in their creation of distinctive, yet interrelated, idioms. If there is a ‘star’ it is probably Alim Qasimov, a mugham singer from Turkish Azerbaijan, whose contributions to Kor Arab (especially), Shikasta and Night at the Caravanserai are hauntingly beautiful, emotionally powerful. It is perhaps because I have Iranian family connections that I find most satisfying the pieces in which Persian/Turkish and similar influences are most prominent, such as Kayhan Kalhor’s Mountains are Far Away and the traditional Night at the Caravanserai. Some of the ‘Chinese’ pieces I find a little lightweight, rather too much like ‘exotic’ film music. But this may only reflect the limitations of my own sensibility and, in any case, there are exceptions to my generalisation – as in Yanzi, movingly sung by Wu Tong, and Zhao Jiping’s Sacred Cloud Music which closes the CD.

There is much to intrigue, much to satisfy, for any listener not hide-bound in his or her habits, and it is a CD to which I shall return frequently.

Glyn Pursglove



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