Wu Fei, a native of Beijing and a current Middle Tennessee resident, is a master of the guzheng or zheng, a 21-string Chinese zither. She plays zheng beautifully in the instrument’s vernacular–a musical language which is 2,000 to 3,000 years old–and in a contemporary idiosyncratic, experimental dialect began during years spent at Mills College and immersed in the Downtown improvising scene which revolved around NYC clubs like The Stone, which Fei curated for the month of Oct. 2008. Wu Fei composes for choir, string quartet, chamber ensemble, Balinese gamelan, and orchestra; her commissions include a composition for Percussions Claviers de Lyon that premiered in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. Wu Fei has collaborated with many artists of different disciplines and genres ranging from Abigail Washburn to avant garde composer John Zorn, Fred Frith and more.
A singing, songwriting, Nashville-based clawhammer banjo player, Abigail Washburn pairs venerable folk elements with far-flung sounds, and the results feel both strangely familiar and unlike anything anybody’s ever heard before. Washburn is also armed with Chinese language ability and profound connections to culture and people on the other side of the Pacific. One of the few foreign artists currently touring China independently and regularly, she completed a month-long (Nov-Dec 2011) tour of China’s Silk Road supported by grants from the US Embassy, Beijing. Her efforts to share US music in China and Chinese music in the US exist within a hope that cultural understanding and the communal experience of beauty and sound reaching out from tradition will lead the way to a richer and a more profoundly rooted existence. Abigail’s most recent release is her self-titled record with husband and banjo virtuoso, Béla Fleck.
At Music City Roots, Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei will perform as a banjo-guzheng duo, playing & singing a selection of songs that combine their traditional Appalachian and Chinese influences.