Abigail Washburn, banjo and Wu Fei, guzheng
Abigail Washburn, banjo and Wu Fei, guzheng (USA, China)
What do you get when you cross a 2,000-year-old court instrument from the royal banquets of China’s Qin dynasty, an early banjo style of the Appalachian Mountains and two close friends who have mastered their respective styles to the point of utter virtuosity? The result is Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei’s stunning string duo, a cultural commingling of songs and storytelling rooted in traditional Appalachian and Chinese music. In 2017, they launched The Ripple Effect, a nonprofit that supports multicultural music instruction for schoolchildren in Nashville, Tenn. while also co-writing their first album, produced by Washburn’s 16-time Grammy-winning husband, Béla Fleck.
Fei is classically trained in the guzheng, a Chinese 21-string zither, but she has honed her improvisational voice with experimental musicians the likes of John Zorn and Billy Martin. Meanwhile, Washburn continues to push the boundaries of the traditional clawhammer technique while serving as “one of the world’s most accommodating virtuosos,” according to The New York Times. By threading their shared interest in the traditional fabric of their cultural roots into inspired original compositions, the pair speaks a musical language more powerful than any single dialect.