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THE RECORD: INTERVIEW WITH KOJIRO UMEZAKI: SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE WITH YO-YO MA TO PERFORM AT NJPAC

By: Kara Yorio

June 2, 2011

The Record

Yo-Yo Ma created the Silk Road Project to connect people. As far as his collaborators in the Silk Road Ensemble are concerned, he has done just that.

Spain's Cristina Pato, who plays the Galician bagpipes called gaita, says being a part of the ensemble has changed her life.

"It's really very exciting how much I learn touring with them and working with them," says Pato. "We all have our own careers and our own lives, then we meet once or twice a year for a tour and we become a family. In the moment we get together again, it's like starting a new degree in music from all around the world. … Working with them is like the dream of my life."

Japan's Kojiro Umezaki, who plays the Japanese bamboo flute called the shakuhachi, has gained something beyond the music as well. "The honest and not-so-interesting answer is definitely the friendship," says Umezaki.

As part of its mission, the Silk Road Project, a not-for-profit artistic, cultural and educational organization, presents concerts by the ensemble, which boasts members from more than 20 countries. Yo-Yo Ma usually joins them, as he will at NJPAC on Saturday. The internationally renowned cellist wanted Silk Road Project and Ensemble to create a community, show a connection between varied backgrounds and traditions.

Pato and Umezaki collaborated to create the opening piece for Saturday's concert, titled "Vojo," an Esperanto word that means "the way" or "the road." The two were still working on it with a couple of weeks to go before its debut. "It's like putting together a puzzle," says Pato. "To create something with somebody else is a beautiful process."

They planned the piece to be a journey from one land to another, but when they brought their ideas and separate pieces to each other, that changed.

"We didn't have to go from Okinawa to Galicia," says Pato.

"We just had to put it together and we'd be there."

"We want to set the tone with a sense of community," says Umezaki. "If we can start with a sense of community, we can build it up to something a little more festive just to set the tone for the concert."

Umezaki is touched by such apparently different people coming together and working so well together. "It's something I want to bring with me outside of the ensemble," he says.

 

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