Passing Knowledge Part 1

“Meet the artist” usually means someone interviews said person followed by a Q&A and a bit of meet and greet. Such was the case when banjoist and world traveler Abigail Washburn dropped by the UCSB Multicultural Center to talk about how knowing another culture’s language and the power of music can bridge cultural divides. Case in point: the U.S. and China. Ms. Washburn has spent a lot of time in China, first as a lawyer, and since pursuing a musical career, as a kind of musical ambassador. In 2011 she and American musicians The Village were part of a Silk Road tour in China sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and the Chinese International Center for Exchange. They performed and collaborated with local musicians in many venues across China ranging from town squares to schools and theaters. For this interview with  Dept. of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies chair Katherine Saltzman-Li, Abigail discussed how language and cultural differences can be overcome, and how music music can dissolve prejudices. She illustrated a perfect example with a video from the tour.  Chinese master of the ur hu Fang Ningping was resistant to joining the Americans to perform the Appalachian folk song “Bright Morning Stars” because he didn’t want to play frivolous American “pop” music. Once he heard the hypnotic drone at the beginning of The Village’s version, he was hooked and as demonstrated in a video of their performance, proceeded to play a haunting and lovely solo. Once you get to know the truth about something foreign and find common ground with the “other,” good things can happen. Part of UCSB Art and Lectures outreach to students and the community.