Stories » The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble / Wall Street Journal

Top 10 for Nov

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble / Wall Street Journal

Bookmark and Share

Yo-Yo Ma is very funny at the start of "The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble." He walks into a room, instrument in hand, sits down on a sofa and says to the camera, "This is my cello. Have you ever seen one before?" Well, its curvy body does look familiar, and we've definitely seen the man who plays it, bright spirit that he is; we may even have heard the ensemble's recordings. Still,Morgan Neville's documentary is a joyous revelation, a group portrait of superb musicians from all over the world offering music as an emblem of what people can do in these fractious times when they live in concert with one another.

 

The first extended sample of their music is thrilling-so much so that I wish the movie had found room for many long takes, though it's full of other pleasures and surprises. (Mr. Neville won an Oscar two years ago for his documentary feature "20 Feet From Stardom.") We see the ensemble playing in Istanbul, in a pretty public square on the Bosporus. They're a polyglot lot, some with exotic instruments, others with familiar strings, reeds and drums; one singer has a voice strong enough to be heard on the other side of the city across the water. Mr. Ma stands toward the rear of the group, plucking his cello like a standup bass and rocking in rhythm like the cosmopolitan enthusiast he has long been.

READ THE FULL Wall Street Journal ARTICLE