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Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan

© HEIDI KOELZ

World-Stage Concerts
The Silk Road Ensemble has given performances in locations ranging from concert halls to stadiums to museum galleries throughout the world, including Suntory Hall in Tokyo (above), Carnegie Hall in New York, Millennium Park in Chicago, Shanghai Stadium in China, Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, the Royal Albert Hall in London and the United Nations General Assembly Hall.


Pipa

© TARA TODRAS-WHITEHILL


“I actually have five pipas and choose among them. Not one of them is old. The way to make pipas has changed. In ancient times, the pipa used to have six frets; now it has 24. In ancient times, the strings used to be made of silk; now they are made of steel. These steel strings are very strong and produce a loud sound, much better for a large concert hall. With steel strings, however, we have to use plastic picks, and not our fingernails, to pluck the strings.”

- WU MAN


Pipa

orig. China  The pipa is a short-necked wooden lute. The head of the instrument is often carved with a bat's head, because the word for "bat" in Chinese sounds similar to the word for "luck." The strings were traditionally made of twisted silk, but are now typically synthetic.

The first known text reference to the pipa is in a third-century Chinese encyclopedia, which notes that it originated "among barbarians," who played it while riding horseback. Since the Tang Dynasty (618-907 C.E.), the pipa has been one of the most popular instruments in China.

The pluck-playing technique is characterized by spectacular finger dexterity and virtuosic effects, including rolls and percussive slaps. Pipa repertoire includes extensive tone poems vividly describing famous battles and other exciting stories.


Hear the instrument
Pipa sound clip »


Pipa players
Li Hui
Wu Man
Yang Wei


Other string instruments
Cello
Contrabass
Erhu
Harp
Kamancheh
Kayagum
Morin khuur
Oud
Piano
Ruan
Santur

Tar
Viola
Violin


Other Chinese instruments
Bawu
Erhu
Ruan
Sheng