Author: Becca Vaclavik

Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble comes to Boulder with music that bridges cultural divides

On Jan. 31, the CU Presents Artist Series will kick off 2019 with a performance from the Silkroad Ensemble, a collective of Grammy Award-winning artists from across the globe.

Founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 1998, the Silkroad Ensemble fuses musical styles and traditions from the lands of the Silk Road to create a single, collaborative sound.

“It was Yo-Yo’s idea to use art and music to showcase how you can collaborate between cultures,” said Silkroad Ensemble bassist Shawn Conley. “Silkroad is a perfect, beautiful example of what beauty can come from meeting a stranger and having a conversation with somebody that you don’t know or with whom you don’t speak the same language. But you speak the language of music.”

For Conley, performing with the Silkroad Ensemble provides an opportunity for which he’s waited his entire life.

“It’s your dream job when you’re a kid. You think, ‘Oh, I wish I could play all different types of music and travel the world and learn new things all the time and meet new people.’ Sure, that’d be nice, but it will never happen. There’s nobody like that. But there is—and I get to play with them. It’s a very special group.”

The group’s concerts continue to expose audiences to serve as a reminder of what’s possible when audiences open themselves up to other cultures, even 20 years after its founding, said Conley.

“People see instruments they’ve never seen before, and they see people that look different and wearing different clothes, all onstage together playing music,” said Conley. “It’s a beautiful sound and they have a great time at the concert. They have a real experience with people from around the world. In a lot of places, you don’t have that opportunity.”

Silkroad has recorded seven albums, including “Sing Me Home,” which won the 2016 Grammy for Best World Music Album.

Though Yo-Yo Ma will not be present at this event, the CU Presents concert will feature performances by pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Galician bagpipe player Cristina Pato, Grammy Award-winning multi-percussionist Joseph Gramley, and more.

The Silkroad Ensemble performs in Macky Auditorium on Jan. 31 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $21.