Yo-Yo Ma reunites with The Silk Road Ensemble for tour

Silkroad Ensemble
Indiana Daily Student

By Carolyn Crowcroft

Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and members of The Silk Road Ensemble took to the stage at the IU Auditorium and were welcomed by the auditorium’s sold-out crowd Monday night.

The ensemble, founded by Ma in 2000, performed six classical pieces that reflected the musical and cultural diversity of the ensemble’s 16 members.

The group opened with “Side In Side Out,” composed by Japanese musician Kojiro Umezaki, who plays the shakuachi, a Japanese flute, in the orchestra. The number featured Umezaki as well as other members of the group and provided an energetic start to the night.

A fun-loving energy translated to the performance while the members addressed the audience. Cellist Eric Jacobsen playfully referred to himself as “the other cellist” in the group and expressed how happy the ensemble was to be back in Bloomington.

The second piece, “Atashgah,” was written by another ensemble member, violinist Colin Jacobsen. The piece was inspired by Jacobsen’s visit to Iran in 2004, when he heard Iranian kamancheh player and Silk Road member Kayhan Kalhor play. The piece was written to feature the kamancheh as well as Western strings.

The next musical performance followed with “Silk Road Suite,” which featured four movements: “Rustem,” “Rajasthani Traditional,” “Kali Sara” and “Turceasca.” The piece featured a number of composers, and ensemble member Sandeep Das acted as arranger on “Rajasthani Traditional.”

The ensemble’s fourth piece, “Playlist for an Extreme Occasion,” was written for them in 2012 by New York composer and jazz pianist Vijay Iyer.

In keeping with the group’s mission to promote the appreciation of culture and the arts across the world, the Silk Road Ensemble performed a Japanese piece, “Tsuru no Ongaeshi.” Meaning “Repayment from a Crane,” the song was composed by Umezaki and inspired by a classic Japanese story of the same name.

The performance ended with “Suite from Book of Angels,” a compilation of various short pieces by American composer John Zorn that the group put its own spin on by arranging them itself. Kalhor’s arrangement made its debut during the recent concert tour.

The Silk Road Ensemble features members from 20 countries all over the world, including Asia, Europe and the Americas. The group, under Ma’s artistic direction, strives to explore contemporary music from each other’s countries and celebrate both the similarities and differences that encompass world music.

Together, The Silk Road Ensemble has toured around the world and recorded and released five albums. The 2011 record “Off the Map” received a Grammy nomination for Best Classical Crossover Album.

The attraction of Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble was enough to get people from outside Indiana to turn up to the IU Auditorium.

Christine Kim, a student at the University of Minnesota, said she decided to come after her friend, who goes to IU, offered her tickets.

“I like Yo-Yo Ma,” Kim said. “He’s an enthusiastic musician. I really want to hear his music.”

The auditorium’s full house also held music lovers who shared the ensemble’s appreciation for world music.

Junior Elizabeth McClary is an India studies and East Asian languages and cultures major at IU. She said she is fascinated by world cultures, which in part drew her to the show Monday night.

“An event like this is right up my alley,” McClary said. “I like fusion music, and I think projects like this are really interesting.”