“The light that shone off her eyes was a place I could have stayed forever. In that moment we weren’t our American selves. We weren’t our Chinese selves. We were just mortals sitting together in that light that keeps us here. I want to dwell in that light with you and with everyone, and I know U.S./China relations doesn’t need another lawyer.”
Abigail Washburn, American banjo player
Abigail Washburn on Building US-China relations … by banjo
I’ve gotta say “Wow!” to this TED Talk with Abigail Washburn. Maybe you’ll find yourself moved as deeply as I was. Abigail speaks about being in Sichuan province just after the devastating earthquake in May 2008. A little girl asked if she could sing Abigail the song her momma had taught her before being “swallowed up in the earthquake.”
Three and a half months after that earthquake, I was back in China to study Mandarin at a university in the north-east (about 3000 km from the devastation). One evening on campus I went to a performance by a visiting dance troupe. I’ll never forget their interpretive dance tribute to the victims of that disaster. Their movements along with the accompanying music had me in tears.
I marvel at the creativity of the human spirit in response to life’s events. Artistic expression, music and dance being but two forms, speaks a universal language capable of uniting the hearts of people everywhere, no matter what the political “divide.” It’s the understanding of the heart that can save us. It’s not the distinct lack of understanding of the ego … a story I don’t want to talk about.
Abigail Washburn in China, “Afterquake: ‘Little Birdie’ Field Recording”
I love this song with the kids–in both English and Mandarin!
Silk Road Tour 3 – Yinchuan – Abigail Washburn & The Village
The erhu, sometimes called the “Chinese violin,” has got to be one of my most favourite instruments ever. There’s something about its twang that drives me crazy in a good way! In this video in China, an awesome erhu player named Quan Lei performs with Abigail and her band. Listen to the special effects he achieves with this 2-stringed instrument. (And please see the erhu video in my PS below.)
Before saying zai jian 再见 (bye) for today, I want to thank Abigail Washburn for her big loving heart and for her wonderful use of the banjo to promote understanding and love between folks in the West and folks in China. I’m SO glad she gave up law!
Till next time,
Music speaks a universal language, and some music can penetrate the hardest of hearts. I believe the piece that follows fits this category. “The Butterfly Lovers,” or Liang Zhu (梁祝), is based upon an ancient Chinese Romeo and Juliet story. In this version of “Butterfly Lovers,” the erhu is featured with the great musician Sun Huang (孙凰). The orchestra, by the way, is comprised mostly of traditional Chinese instruments. The videos’ long, but please listen for at least 2 1/2 minutes. If you make it to 4:20, then great! You will understand why.
Do you think this music has a poignant, heart-softening effect? What pieces of music touch your heart and soul?
Butterfly Lovers, Liang Zhu (梁祝)