Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Ensemble’s new album explores concept of home

Chinese Culture

Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. (Photo by Jennifer Taylor)

World renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma will release his latest album “Sing Me Home” on April 22. The album includes performances by Ma the Silk Road Ensemble and is the musical companion to the documentary film “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble” that tells the story of the ensemble and will be released in theaters in June.

Watch a sneak peek here of “Going Home,” which features a duet sung in Chinese and English by Silk Road Ensemble member, Wu Tong, and Grammy-winning folk singer Abigail Washburn.

iTunes link for more.

Produced by Kevin Killen and ensemble member Johnny Gandelsman, the album explores the “ever-changing idea of home” Sony Music said in a press release. The music includes original and traditional arrangements by the global artists that are part of the ensemble.

Composers of each song explored the concept of the “music of home” using their unique experiences and heritage from the Balkans, China, Galicia, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Mali, people of the Roma, Syria, and the United States.

Photo by Michael J. Lutch

Photo by Michael J. Lutch


“Throughout the Silk Road Ensemble’s travels and performances, we have come to understand the wealth of creative potential that exists when cultures intersect,” Yo-Yo Ma said through a press release. “The music composed, arranged, and performed by Ensemble members for Sing Me Home demonstrates the power of curiosity, evolving tradition, and cultural exchange.”

In one example, guest performer Rhiannon Giddens channels music of the Roma people in the American folk tune “St. James Infirmary Blues.”

In another song, guitarist Bill Frisell plays along sice music from a shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) and a tabla (Indian drum).

Singer Sarah Jarosz pays homage to the late Pete Seeger in an arrangement of “Little Birdie,” featuring the pipa (Chinese lute) and the sheng (Chinese mouth organ).

The song “Going Home” reinvents the Dvořák’s “New World” symphony in both Chinese and English by vocalist and banjo player Abigail Washburn and ensemble member Wu Tong.

Ma founded the nonprofit Silkroad in 1998. Since 2000, the ensemble has welcomed more than 70 performers and composers from nearly 25 nations.

“Every tradition is the result of successful invention,” Ma said in the soon-to-be released documentary. “Human beings grow by being curious and receptive to what’s around them. A lot of people are scared of change, and sometimes there’s reason to be fearful. But if you can welcome change, you become fertile ground for development.”

“Sing Me Home” track list

  1. Green (Vincent’s Tune), (feat. Roomful of Teeth)
  2. O’Neill’s Cavalry March, (feat. Martin Hayes)
  3. Little Birdie, (feat. Sarah Jarosz)
  4. Ichichila, (feat. Balla Kouyaté and Toumani Diabaté)
  5. Sadila Jana, (feat. Black Sea Hotel)
  6. Shingashi Song, (feat. Kaoru Watanabe)
  7. Madhoushi, (feat. Shujaat Khan)
  8. Wedding, (feat. Dima Orsho)
  9. Going Home, (feat. Abigail Washburn)
  10. Cabaliño, (feat. Davide Salvado, Anxo Pintos and Roberto Comesaña of Rustica)
  11. St. James Infirmary Blues, (feat. Rhiannon Giddens, Michael Ward-Bergeman and Reylon Yount)
  12. If You Shall Return…, (feat. Bill Frisell)
  13. Heart and Soul, (feat. Gregory Porter and Lisa Fischer)