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Taken from The Violin Channel (Nov 16, 2023)

The Silkroad Ensemble's New EP, "Phoenix Rising"

The release presents works composed or arranged by Silkroad artists performed live at Tanglewood in 2022.

by The Violin Channel

The Silkroad Ensemble - Phoenix Rising coverart

Silkroad has released their new EP, Phoenix Rising. It features four works all composed or arranged by Silkroad Ensemble artists performed live at Tanglewood in 2022 while on the Phoenix Rising tour: Rhiannon Giddens, Sandeep Das, Kaoru Watanabe, and Colin Jacobsen.

Phoenix Rising marked Silkroad's first tour with Rhiannon Giddens as Artistic Director, bringing in a new era for the ensemble. Taking the phoenix as a symbol of rebirth and celebration, the program offered re-imaginations of past Silkroad compositions and arrangements, and new commissions by Silkroad artists.

"As we prepare to emerge from multiple pandemics that have caused devastating loss, we vision a peaceful and just future while still honoring the central tenets of our past; we offer to you Phoenix Rising: a collective grieving song and clarion call, uniting audiences through varied cultural experiences and challenging each of us to reflect on, celebrate, and activate our unique talents to effect change," shared Giddens.

To purchase and listen to the EP, click here.

The release opens with Giddens's arrangement of the traditional folk song "O, Death," a nod to her North Carolina roots, with particular inspiration drawn from folklorist Bessie Jones. Giddens writes in her artist statement about the arrangement, "These traditional songs have a way of getting to the bones of humanity, showing the stark contrast of life and death, and I thought it might do the same in a new setting with Silkroad."

Following is Sandeep Das's arrangement of Rabindranath Tagore's song "Ekla Cholo Re," created in tribute to the many Indian lives lost to COVID-including some of the country's most treasured musicians and artists. Tagore was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and "Ekla Cholo Re" in particular served as a refrain for India's independence movement.

Kaoru Watanabe's new work for the program is "Ho-Oh," named after a phoenix from various Asian mythologies. The Ho-Oh is ubiquitous throughout Japan, including in Gagaku-Japanese court music originally imported from China and Korea in the 8th century. Watanabe writes, "One of the ideas behind this piece is to reunite Gagaku with its distant relatives and see what emerges."

The EP closes with "Biko," commissioned by Silkroad for the Phoenix Rising tour. The original song by Peter Gabriel was a eulogy for the Black South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who died in police custody in 1977.

Listen to "Biko" by Peter Gabriel (arr. Colin Jacobsen) from the EP below:

Yo-Yo Ma conceived of Silkroad in 1998, recognizing the historical Silk Road as a model for cultural collaboration-for the exchange of ideas, tradition, and innovation across borders. In a groundbreaking experiment, he brought together musicians from the lands of the Silk Road to co-create a musical language founded in difference, thus creating the foundation of Silkroad: both a touring ensemble comprised of world-class musicians from all over the globe and a Boston-based non-profit organization working to make a positive impact across borders through the arts. Today, under the leadership of Artistic Director Rhiannon Giddens and Executive Director Ben Hartley, Silkroad leads social impact initiatives and educational programming alongside the creation of new music by the Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble.




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