Such is music at its very purest…free from the borders of society, geography, and even time.
“Every time I open a newspaper, I am reminded that we live in a world where we can no longer afford not to know our neighbors.” So says Yo-Yo Ma, the world’s favorite cellist who also happens to be both a Kennedy Center honoree and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The following Kennedy Center Honors tribute performance to Yo-Yo Ma demonstrates that said honor was bestowed not only to celebrate Mr. Ma’s technical brilliance and musical artistry, but also to pay homage to his significant cross-cultural endeavors that both entertain and enlighten audiences around the world. To put it succinctly, Yo-Yo Ma is a musician without borders. (As a community without borders for artists of all sorts, Talenthouse can definitely relate!)
2011 Kennedy Center Honors Tribute to Yo-Yo Ma
Ma’s career began with classical music, but he has since gone on to perform with bluegrass ensembles, contribute music to Hollywood art films, and spearhead the famed international performing arts nonprofit The Silk Road Project, which takes “inspiration from the historical Silk Road trading routes,” using “the Silk Road as a modern metaphor for sharing and learning across cultures, art forms and disciplines”. This latter project is a particularly powerful example of how cross-cultural collaborations in music can shape new sounds from old instruments into astounding works of art that bring global communities together in the most visceral way possible.
Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble perform “Arabian Waltz”
As wonderful as Mr. Ma’s work is, he isn’t the only one out there bridging the cultural and genre gaps. Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek might be less of a household name, but his beautiful international collaborations have made him a respected figure in the world music scene. In the following clip, Garbarek and Zakir Hussain, famed classical Indian musician, blend the jazz saxophone with the ancient tabla into a symphony of timeless beauty:
Zakir Hussain and Jan Garbarek: “Making Music”
Makin’ music, indeed! Here’s another clip from the Garbarek canon, in which he and The Hilliard Ensemble create a spiritually charged piece using nothing but a Latin chant and the soprano sax:
Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble: “Parce Mihi Domine”
Worth a few repeat listens, no?
As much as I love listening to “pure” genre acts in pop, R&B, classical, and jazz, it can be even more of a pleasure to listen to artists who take the chance to blur the boundaries between such divisions. The end results are often more rewarding to listen to because of the utterly unique auditory experience that comes from combinations of vastly different influences. Such is music at its very purest, after all—free from the borders of society, geography, and even time.