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Yo-Yo Ma | Silk Road: Music of Strangers / People's World review

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Over the past 16 years, an extraordinary group of musicians has come together to celebrate the universal power of music. Named for the ancient trade route linking Asia, Africa and Europe, The Silk Road Ensemble, an international collective created by acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, exemplifies music's ability to blur geographical boundaries, blend disparate cultures and inspire hope for peace and global cooperation on the part of both artists and audiences.

You don't have to be an anthropologist or ethnomusicologist to know that cultures influence each other. To take an obvious example, so-called "Gypsy" music can be heard in every national style from the flamenco of Spain to the sound of the Russian balalaika. And speaking of which, guitar or dulcimer-type instruments can be found in world music almost anywhere you look. Indeed, as Yo-Yo Ma says, "The intersection of cultures is where new things emerge." Like human genetics, which can suffer from too much inbreeding, culture needs to be allowed to cross-pollinate and grow if it is to survive.

"The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble" is the latest film from the creators of the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom and the critically-hailed Best of Enemies. It follows an ever-changing lineup of performers drawn from the ensemble's more than 50 instrumentalists, vocalists, composers, arrangers, visual artists and storytellers as they gather in locations across the world, exploring the ways art can both preserve traditions and shape cultural evolution.

READ THE FULL People's World REVIEW