20 April 2009

Listen to musics from the Silk Road

(Listen to a Macedonia folk song 'The Evil Grandpa' (Лош дедо, Losh dedo) performed by Aashti)

Because of my own interest as well as the necessity of collecting materials for my lectures on Musical Cultures Around the Globe, I have been studying musics of Central Asia, Middle East and the Balkans for the past two years. Recently I have collaborated with some groups such as Shantaal, Aashti and London Shamisen Club to promote in Taiwan musics from those distant lands.

While the musicians of the said groups deliver 'exotic' songs and pieces with instruments unfamiliar to Taiwanese ears, I offer the audiences some guiding comments on musical works, instruments and cultural histories. Last Thursday I was invited to host a live performance by Aashti at the Tsing Hua University.

Aashti is a group composed of six members, including three Taiwanese, two Macedonians and a Frenchman, who met at the Silk Road concert series organised by Taipei Chinese Orchestra in 2008. These individuls soon found common ground on the penchant for musics from the ancient Silk Road and decided to form a ensemble.

It might be curious how musics from the Silk Road are connected with Taiwanese, Macedonian and French musicians. In fact, the Silk Road is not a distinct highway but an extensive network of trade routes connecting East, South and Western Asia with the Mediterranean world, which also covers part of North Africa and Europe.

Therefore, the French flautist who masters the kaval, the singer and the tambura player from Macedonia, and three Taiwanese who play respectively the Uyghur satar, the tablah and the Persian Zarb are certainly representatives of the musical Silk Road.

As opposed to Western classical music, of which the repertoire has been well studied and for which listening guidance is available virtually everywhere, musics (either folk or classical) from the Silk Road are still new to the Taiwanese audience, perhaps as well as to those in the 'West'. I hope with our efforts people in Taiwan may come to know more about the musical cultures from this ancient network of trade routes.