Did you know that the Chinese call the Yellow River "the mother river," just as Indians refer to "Mother Ganges," and Russians to the "Mother Volga"? Rivers have been the cradle of societies across the world. They still connect diverse places and people. And rivers have long been a source of inspiration to artists of all kinds.
As our artistic director Yo-Yo Ma says, "rivers invite us to examine our own experiences in the flow of time, to reconsider our connections with other cultures and species. We can approach them from unlimited perspectives."
A new issue of Calliope, the world history magazine for kids, focuses on connecting rivers and cultures. It couldn't come out at a better time—just when we are commissioning new music from Ensemble members about rivers around the world. Look for more information about us on a multidisciplinary Rivers Initiative over the coming year.
This Calliope issue, "Rivers: The Key to Life," features waterways around the world, from the Nile and the Congo in Africa to the Yangtze and Yellow River in China to the Mississippi in the United States.
Several Silk Road Ensemble musicians contributed interviews to the magazine. Wu Tong, from China, discusses his piece "Yarlung Zangbo River," part of a Nine Rivers suite he composed for the Ensemble. This river flows from its source high in the Himalayan Mountains in Tibet across the Indian plains to the sea, linking countries and cultures along the way. As Wu Tong points out, in Chinese, the word "river" also means "connection."
Shane Shanahan and Sandeep Das talk about performing at festivals around the world. Kayhan Kalhor and Cristina Pato discuss what can be learned about other cultures through their traditional music. Dong-Won Kim explains the importance of rivers to music and to the Korean people.
And Michael Ward-Bergeman, who has composed for us, has been traveling to cities and towns along the Mississippi River, meeting residents and jamming with musicians along the way. He discusses his journey from the river's headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minnesota, more than 2,500 miles south to New Orleans' Mississippi Delta.
Rivers resource for educators
We have developed a new resource for educators wanting to connect rivers and the arts in classrooms. The resource, which gives ideas for using this Calliope issue, will be included in our education email in mid December. For a free copy, join our mailing list (check "Silk Road Connect").
The following themed issues of Calliope have been created in partnership with the Silk Road Project and feature our musicians: