The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble | Chicago Reader

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Rated PG-13 · 96 minutes · 2016

Documentary, Music, Music documentary
In 2000 cellist Yo-Yo Ma formed the Silk Road Ensemble, an international collective of 50 musicians that has since recorded seven albums and brought its eclectic performances—incorporating such disparate national instruments as the gaita (a Spanish bagpipe), pipa (a Chinese lute), and kamancheh (an Iranian bowed string instrument)—to approximately two million people in 33 countries. Director Morgan Neville (Best of Enemies, 20 Feet From Stardom) adeptly profiles Ma and four prominent members of the ensemble who inspire awe with their stories of defying various sociopolitical limitations. One might easily dismiss this musical journey as a feel-good exercise in "cultural tourism," which Ma acknowledges as a valid criticism. But what drives the narrative is the musicians' mutual desire to forge meaningful connections across cultures, an affirmative answer to Leonard Bernstein's question of whether music can truly serve as a "universal language."
Director: Morgan Neville
Producer: Caitrin Rogers, Laura Freid, Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann and Julie Goldman
Cast: Yo-Yo Ma

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