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Driving Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble / Forbes

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If you'd been standing at the southern entrance to Grand Central Terminal this past Tuesday morning at just the right time, you might have noticed a green-haired Galician bagpiper marching through a crowd of onlookers, her instrument's notes soaring toward the rafters as she ascended a makeshift stage to perform alongside a Syrian clarinetist and an assortment of additional musicians.

The group in question was an offshoot of the Silk Road Ensemble, the Grammy-winning world music collective launched by cellist Yo-Yo Ma to unite the planet's disparate sounds. The aforementioned bagpiper, Cristina Pato (her instrument is known as the gaita in her native Spain), and the clarinetist, Kinan Azmeh, serve as two of Silk Road's core members. They play their instruments alongside musicians from 20 different countries including Balla Kouyate (balafon, Mali), Rauf Islamov (kamancheh, Azerbaijan), Siamak Jahangiry (ney, Iran) and Betti Xiang (erhu, China).

"For me to discover how much connected the world of classical music and world music were, for a person having two paths but never crossing over from one side to the other, was some sort of a revelation for me," says Pato, who joined Silk Road in 2006. "Then you discover that there are way more things connected than things that are disconnected. And then magic happens."
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for HBO

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