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World Music CD Reviews Asia & Far East


By Tom Terrell
Published March 24, 2006

Silk Road Journeys—When Strangers Meet
Sony Classical

In the cloistered, rarefied environs of classical music, Yo-Yo Ma is an anomaly, a world class cellist who frequently records so-called non-classical material and performs with non-classical singers and players. And likes it! He’s done Astor Piazzolla, hillbilly music, film soundtracks and chamber jazz. Silk Road Journeys—When Strangers Meet is Brotha Ma’s most musically audacious, artistically rewarding “outside” recording yet. Centuries ago, the Silk Road was the overland trade route that linked Europe to Asia. In 1988, the cellist founded the Silk Road Project for the purpose of studying “the ebb and flow of ideas among different cultures along the Silk Road.” The Yo-Yo Ma-led Silk Road Ensemble consists of 22 American, European and Indo-Asian musicians playing classical (piano, woodwinds, trombones, strings) and indigenous instruments. From the starkly elliptical ululation of Ganbaatar Knongorzul (“Mongolian Traditional long song”) to “Blue As The Turquoise Night Of Neyshabur”’s rapturous, tabla/strings-laced arabesque variation of Iran’s traditional chahargah<