Crossing cultures effortlessly, Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei perform songs rooted in traditional Appalachian and Chinese music. The guzheng, a Chinese zither, melds with the American folk tones of the banjo, creating an entirely unique sound.
Part of the Béla Fleck Residency: Acoustic Planet Tales
Abigail Washburn is a Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter and clawhammer banjo player whose music often meshes traditional Appalachian and Chinese folk tunes. Abigail’s music projects range from her string band, Uncle Earl, to her bilingual releases Song of the Traveling Daughter (2005) and City of Refuge (2011), to the mind-bending “chamber roots” sound of the Sparrow Quartet (featuring Béla Fleck, Casey Driessen, and Ben Sollee), to Afterquake, her fundraiser CD for Sichuan earthquake victims. Her most recent record with her husband, Béla Fleck, won a 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. Washburn is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has regularly toured in China, including a month long tour of China's Silk Road supported by grants from the US Embassy, Beijing. Abigail is a TED Fellow and gave a talk at the 2012 TED Convention in Long Beach titled “Building US-China Relations…by Banjo.” In March of 2013, she was commissioned by New York Voices and the NY Public Theater to write and debut a theatrical work, Post-American Girl, which draws from her 17-year relationship with China and addresses themes of expanding identity, cultural relativism, pilgrimage, and the universal appeal of music. abigailwashburn.com
Wu Fei, a native of Beijing and a current Nashville resident, is a master of the guzheng, the 21-string Chinese zither. She plays beautifully in the instrument’s vernacular–a musical language which is at least 2,000 years old–and in a contemporary idiosyncratic, experimental dialect nurtured by years spent at Mills College and immersed in the New York Downtown improvisation scene which revolved around venues like The Stone, where Fei has frequently performed and curated. Fei composes for choir, string quartet, chamber ensemble, Balinese gamelan, and orchestra; her commissions range from a composition for Percussions Claviers de Lyon that premiered in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing to live performances in Paris and Tokyo for luxury brand Hermès. In addition to her own original compositions, Fei has collaborated with many artists of different disciplines and genres ranging from Washburn to avant garde composer John Zorn, Fred Frith, Carla Kilhstedt, Billy Cardine, and Jeff Coffin, to name a few. wufeimusic.com