“What makes the Silkroad Ensemble tick is its wonderful juxtaposition of cultures, instruments, ancient works and new compositions…East may be east, and west may be west, but seldom have the twain met so joyously.”
The Seattle Times
“…a kind of roving musical laboratory without walls”
The Boston Globe
“Vibrant and virtuosic”
Wall Street Journal
“One of the most visionary arts initiatives of our time.”
“The [Silkroad] vision of international cooperation is not what we read in our daily news reports. Theirs is the better world available if we, like these extraordinary musicians, agree to make it one.”
Los Angeles Times
Yo-Yo Ma conceived Silkroad in 1998 as a reminder that even as rapid globalization resulted in division, it brought extraordinary possibilities for working together. Seeking to understand this dynamic, he recognized the historical Silk Road as a model for cultural collaboration — for the exchange of ideas, tradition, and innovation across borders. In an innovative experiment, he brought together musicians from the lands of the Silk Road to co-create a new artistic idiom: a musical language founded in difference, a metaphor for the benefits of a more connected world.
This initial gathering of artists was rooted in a simple, initial question: “What happens when strangers meet?” And thus Silkroad was born, as both a touring ensemble comprised of world-class musicians from all over the globe and a social impact organization working to make a positive impact across borders through the arts.
Today, under the leadership of Artistic Director Rhiannon Giddens, Silkroad creates music that engages difference, sparking cultural collaboration and high-quality arts education to help build a more hopeful and inclusive world. What does this look like?
• Social impact initiatives — Silkroad brings music, hope, and healing to underserved, culturally rich, urban, rural, indigenous, and refugee communities.
• Educational partnerships — Silkroad uses the arts to ignite passions and foster education in students, teachers, and musicians through training workshops and residency programs in public schools, universities, prisons, and indigenous and refugee communities.
• Creation of new music — Silkroad builds upon a musical language founded in difference and collaboration that draws on the rich tapestry of world traditions that make up our many-layered contemporary identities.
• The Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble — Silkroad thrills audiences worldwide with a collective of artists representing dozens of nationalities and artistic traditions, demonstrating how great beauty can emerge from great difference.
The Silkroad Ensemble has been called “vibrant and virtuosic” by The Wall Street Journal, “one of the 21st century’s great ensembles” by the Vancouver Sun, and a “roving musical laboratory without walls” by The Boston Globe.
Silkroad musicians appear in many configurations and settings, from intimate groups of two and three in museum galleries to rousing complements of eighteen in concert halls, public squares, and amphitheaters. Silkroad musicians and composers hail from more than 20 countries, drawing on a rich tapestry of traditions to create a new musical language — a uniquely engaging and accessible encounter between the foreign and the familiar that reflects our many-layered contemporary identities. As the Los Angeles Times has said, Silkroad’s “vision of international cooperation is not what we read in our daily news reports. Theirs is the better world available if we, like these extraordinary musicians, agree to make it one.”
The Silkroad Ensemble has performed in more than 100 cities in over 30 countries and recorded eight albums; its 2016 release, Sing Me Home, won the Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. The Music of Strangers, a documentary about the Ensemble directed by the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and was released worldwide in 2016.