An Impromptu Uyghur Hoedown

Thursday, July 2, 2015 - 11:23 am

An Impromptu Uyghur Hoedown

When Abigail Washburn and her band The Village traveled through China, they sought out local musicians at each stop in hopes of having a musical exchange. None of them expected to find themselves in a jam session around the dinner table with a bunch of Uyghur musicians from Urumqi, in the western part of the country.

Fortunately for us, they shot some video of this joyful encounter. Language and cultural barriers dissolve and are replaced by a connection that feels deeply rooted in their shared humanity. It’s as if they’re giving into it, and are open to marveling at the talents new friends and sharing their own. The resulting music is a fabulous blend of styles of course, but for me, watching the faces and the nonverbal communication between everyone gets to the heart why we make music in the first place.

Check out the satisfied smile of the tambur player at 3:07 when he finishes his solo and yields the floor to Abigail’s voice. Or the drummers trading flourishes at 3:20. What follows can best be described as a cross cultural hoedown. Moments like these can certainly be described in English or Mandarin, but the language of music is the better tool to understand exchanges of the heart.

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has been crafting On Being episodes for over five years as producer and technical director. He’s had the pleasure of recording the world from the streets of Old Jerusalem to the Smokey Mountains, from taco stands in Mexico City to Sufi musicians in Istanbul. When not in front of a computer screen, he loves the outdoors (regardless of the weather), just about every kind of music, and watching his daughters discover the world.

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