Episodes:

Photographs by Scott Friedlander ©2013. Used with permission.

Jason Kao Hwang’s EDGE Ensemble:
Burning Bridge

Delve into the raucous, funky world of Jason Hwang’s eight-piece band and their rowdy, collective improvisations that invoke the legacies of New Orleans jazz, Ornette Coleman, and Charles Mingus. He is joined by a deep brass section with Taylor Ho Bynum on cornet and flugelhorn, Joe Daley on tuba, and Steve Swell on trombone, plus Ken Filiano on bass, Andrew Drury on drums, Wang Guowei on erhu (Chinese fiddle), and Sun Li on pipa (Chinese lute). This concert was presented in 2010 in conjunction with the exhibition Fiona Tan: Rise and Fall.

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Chinese Visionary: Music of Ge Gan-ru

Experience the unique musical voice of Chinese-born composer Ge Gan-ru, who expands the language of chamber music in provocative and challenging ways. His compositions emphasize novel playing techniques, unorthodox forms, Chinese tone qualities, and melodic ideas that range from the lyrical and charming to the searing and tragic. On this podcast, hear four of his works performed by the Shanghai Quartet with pianist Kathryn Woodard, the ModernWorks ensemble, and pianist Margaret Leng Tan on toy instruments in a work based on a twelfth-century Chinese poem. These performances were recorded in 2006 and 2007 at the Meyer Auditorium of the Freer Gallery of Art as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series.

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The Voice of Central Asia:
The Ilyas Malayev Ensemble

Hear the legendary Uzbek singer Ilyas Malayev, who entertained Soviet leaders, drew tens of thousands to concerts in his native country, starred in state folk ensembles for forty years, and played a prominent role in bringing the music of Central Asia to the US in the 1990s. He is accompanied by an ensemble of prominent artists from New York’s Central Asian community who specialize in lively wedding music, soulful folk songs, and the region’s classical repertoire in the shashmaqām tradition. This performance was presented at the Freer Gallery in 1998 in conjunction with the exhibition Ikat: Splendid Silks from Central Asia from the Guido Goldman Collection.

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Left: Photo credit Ken Howard. Right: Detail, F1903.284

Music From Japan:
Ancient Winds/Modern Percussion

Immerse yourself in the ethereal sounds of this traditional court music ensemble as they perform the haunting music of the Japanese gagaku alongside new music written for these unusual instruments, including Toru Takemitsu’s “Seasons.” Mysterious tone-clusters from the ancient mouth organ hover above fleeting sounds from flute, double-reed, and panpipe, accompanied by a phalanx of modern percussion creating an otherworldly atmosphere. The ensemble features an all-star quartet with Mayumi Miyata on sho (mouth organ), Hitomi Nakamura on hichiriki (double-reed), Takeshi Sasamoto on ryuteki (flute) and haisho (panpipe), and Yasunori Yamaguchi on contemporary percussion. This concert was presented as part of the Music From Japan Festival 2008.

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Photo courtesy of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

New Sounds from Arab Lands

Relax to mellow, Arab-inspired jazz by five accomplished performer-composers from Syria and Tunisia and featuring clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, who earned a Grammy Award with the Silkroad Ensemble for their 2017 CD Sing Me Home. This innovative quintet creates new music inspired by Middle Eastern traditions with influences from jazz and Western classical music, blending composition with improvisation in vibrant ways. Kinan Azmeh is joined by Basel Rajoub on tenor saxophone, Jasser Haj Youssef on violin and viola d’amore, Feras Charestan on qanun, and Khaled Yassine on percussion. The New Sounds project was developed by the Aga Khan Music Initiative, a program of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and presented at the Freer Gallery in 2013.

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Chinese Music for the Lunar New Year

Also called the Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year in China marks the traditional start of the agricultural season. It’s also a time to admire the hearty plum blossom, which flowers so early that snow is sometimes still on the ground. Enjoy these performances of music celebrating plum blossoms, lingering snow, and the arrival of springtime. This compilation draws from concerts at the museum featuring Bing Xia on zheng, Yi Zhou on pipa and qin, Miao Yi Min on xiao and dizi, and the Gang-a-Tsui Theater, all recorded live at the National Museum of Asian Art.

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Detail, Benzaiten (Benten), Kawanabe Kyōsai 河鍋暁斎 (1831-1889); Japan; Meiji era, ca. 1880s; ink and color on paper; Freer Gallery of Art, F1975.29.4
Photos by Ken Howard courtesy of Music From Japan

Voice of the Biwa:
Junko Tahara Ensemble

Hear the ancient Japanese biwa, a lute related to the Chinese pipa, in a rare performance outside Japan by one of the masters of the instrument. Junko Tahara breathes new life into a style of medieval music made popular by itinerant monks (biwa hoshi) who wandered the countryside singing The Tale of the Heike, one of Japan’s greatest epics. Alongside this classic, she performs transcendent and evocative new music written for biwa with traditional Japanese flutes and dynamic tsuzumi drumming. This concert was presented at the Freer Gallery in 2007 as part of the Music From Japan Festival.

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Hearing the Qur’an in Jakarta

Hear how the recited Qur’an is experienced in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, from the simple chants of daily life and ritual to elaborate renditions in formal worship and national competition festivals. Listen as the esteemed Indonesian reciter Hajjah Maria Ulfah performs the five styles of recitation, with introductions and commentary by music scholar Anne Rasmussen, author of Women, the Recited Qur’an, and Islamic Music in Indonesia. Maria Ulfah is a longtime recitation teacher in Java and a veteran of international competitions as both contestant and judge. This event was recorded in 2016 as part of the Freer and Sackler series Performing Indonesia: Islamic Intersections.

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Photo by Neil Greentree, FSG staff photographer.

Singing Rumi:
The Pejvak Ensemble

Enjoy energetic and contemplative music from this ensemble of Persian music specialists from the East and West Coasts performing traditional and original music with settings of poetry by Rumi and Faraz Minooei. Two members of the ensemble have appeared with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble: Faraz Minooei on santur (hammered dulcimer) and Pezhham Akhavass on tombak (hand drum). Ensemble leader Behfar Bahadoran on tār and setār (lutes) was the top prizewinner in an international competition for musicians in the Iranian diaspora. They are joined by Steve Bloom on percussion and the late vocalist Shohreh Majd. This performance took place in 2010 as part of the museum’s annual celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

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Asian American Jazz Pioneers:
The Far East Side Band

Journey to a unique soundscape that blends contemporary jazz with East Asian instruments and styles, all performed by this path-breaking ensemble of the late 1990s. Composer, and violinist Jason Kao Hwang subsequently earned best-of-the-year listings in Downbeat, Jazz Times, Jazziz, and All About Jazz. His chamber opera, The Floating Box, A Story in Chinatown, was named among the top ten recordings of 2005 by Opera News. This early experimental quartet also features multi-percussionist Satoshi Takeishi, jazz tuba artist Joseph Daley, and Sang-Won Park on Korean zithers (kayagum and ajaeng). The notes include essays on Asian American jazz and Jason Hwang’s new introduction. Their performance took place at the Freer Gallery of Art in 1999.

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Left: Detail, https://asia.si.edu/object/F1932.53/
Right: Anton Belov, photo courtesy of Dispeker Artists

Inspired by the Mystics:
Anton Belov, baritone; Albert Kim, piano

Listen to the impact that medieval Persian poet Hafiz exerted on the Romantic movement in Europe through this compelling recital by the Russian-born baritone Anton Belov. He explores German musical settings derived from the poetry of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that was in turn inspired by the first translation of Hafiz’s Divan into a Western language in 1813. Goethe’s West-Eastern Divan (1818) combined his own Hafiz-inspired poems with Sufi poems by the Persian mystic. The resulting work inspired Beethoven, Schumann, Wolf, and Brahms and crossed the Atlantic to influence Emerson, Whitman, and Thoreau. These German works are paired with settings by Russian composers of the Biblical Song of Songs and poems by Azerbaijani writer Mizra Shafi Vazeh and Russian mystic Nikolai Minsky. This performance was recorded in concert in 2015 in conjunction with the exhibition Nasta’liq: The Genius of Persian Calligraphy.

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Left:

Inspired by the Ottomans:
Pedja Mužijević, piano

Share in the spell that Ottoman music cast on European composers, from Mozart’s famous “Rondo Alla Turca,” of the 1780s, to music written just after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Marco Tajcevic’s 1926 “Seven Balkan Dances”­—widely played as a virtuoso vehicle—reflects music from areas ruled by the Ottomans for five hundred years. The “Music of the Sayyids and the Dervishes,” from the mid-1920s, by mystic philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff and Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, melds the improvisational style of Turkish taksim with the rhythms of Mevlevi devotion. This concert was presented in 2006 in conjunction with the exhibition Style and Status: Imperial Costumes from Ottoman Turkey.

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Japanese Singer of Tales:
Tsuruga Wakasanojo XI

Enjoy the first-ever English version of Japan’s beloved Yaji and Kita stories told in classical shinnai style through the vocal artistry of Tsuruga Wakasanojo XI, named a National Living Treasure by the Japanese government in 2001. He provides all the narration, dialogue, and songs, accompanied by two shamisen players, for tales of this famous bumbling duo as they travel along the road to Kyoto. He begins the program with another classic of the shinnai (narrative song) repertoire in Japanese: Kurokami (Black Hair), a meditation on mortality originally written for the kabuki theater. This performance was recorded in 2008 in conjunction with the exhibition Patterned Feathers, Piercing Eyes: Edo Masters from the Price Collection.

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Seven musicians, wearing white and standing with their instruments in front of a verdant bamboo forest.

Photo courtesy of Ba Bang Chinese Music Society (NY)

Traditional Chinese Music:
The Han Tang Ensemble

Travel to long-ago China in this performance of lively and entrancing music invoking moonlit rivers, plum blossoms, peacocks, an early spring snow, and the stories of famous legends from Ancient China. This outstanding ensemble of musicians — all trained in China— perform on traditional lute (pipa), fiddle (erhu), hammered dulcimer (yangqin), zither (qin), and mouth organ (sheng). This performance was recorded live in concert at the Meyer Auditorium of the Freer Gallery of Art on April 29, 2002.

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Musician posed playing the violin and gazing upward toward a stone statue of Ganesha seated upon a tiered pedestal.

Photo from www.lalgudigjrkrishnan.com

Master of South Indian Music:
Lalgudi G. J. R. Krishnan, violin

Hear how the Western violin is transformed into a virtuoso vehicle for South Indian classical music in the hands of one of its most accomplished exponents, Lalgudi Krishnan. Since being introduced into Indian music in the 1830s, the violin has been adapted in a variety of ways and is heard here in a wide range of ragas devoted to Shiva, Rama, Krishna, and Radha. Lalgudi Krishnan is joined by Kamalakar Rao on the double-headed drum, mridangam, and A. S. Shankar on the ghatam, a large clay pot unique to South Indian music. This performance was recorded live in concert at the Freer Gallery in May 2000.

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Detail from https://asia.si.edu/object/F1969.18/ Iwasa Matabei (1578–1650), Japan, Edo period, early Edo (1615–1868), ink and color on paper, Purchase—Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Freer Gallery of Art, F1969.18

Music From Japan: Teruhisa Fukuda, shakuhachi, and Shihou Kineya, shamisen

Tradition and innovation meet in this concert for two of Japan’s iconic musical instruments: the shakuhachi, a bamboo flute with roots in Zen Buddhism, and the shamisen, a lute with deep links to secular entertainments, from geisha houses to kabuki theater. Teruhisa Fukuda, shakuhachi, has performed widely with traditional ensembles and the likes of the NHK Symphony, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, and the Hong Kong New Symphony Orchestra. He is joined by the shamisen virtuoso, Shihou Kineya. This concert was recorded at the Freer Gallery as part of the Music From Japan Festival 1999.

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Photos by Witjak Widhi Cahya

Komungo Muse and Permutations:
Jin Hi Kim

Experience a uniquely Korean approach to music through original works for the classical Korean komungo (zither) that utilize interactive computer audio to create entirely new worlds of sound based on Korean aesthetics. Kim has appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and her works have been performed by the Kronos Quartet and the American Composers Orchestra. In the words of the Washington Post, her “unique vision blends . . . state-of-the-art technology, ancient mythology, and timeless music and dance traditions” and her works “cut across barriers of language, culture, and tradition, touch us at deep, irrational levels [and] result in a work that speaks to our common humanity.” This performance was recorded live in concert at the Freer Gallery of Art on January 21, 2000.

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South Indian Classical Music:
Geetha Raja, vocals

Delve into the melodious world of Carnatic music with one of South India’s most renowned vocalists. Shrimati Geetha Raja traverses a variety of genres, from devotional repertoire (kritis, bhajans, and abhangs) to extended improvisations on a variety of ragas. Her lyrics praise Shiva, Rama, Krishna, and the goddess Devi using virtuosic melodic inventions to explore multifarious facets of Hindu divinity. This recital was recorded in concert in 2005 as part of a program  celebrating the newly installed South Asian and Himalayan galleries in the Freer.

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From Buddhist Caves to the Pulitzer Prize:
Music From China Ensemble

Hear original music for Chinese instruments written by four leading composers from China, including Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long, performed by North America’s top virtuosos on Chinese wind and string instruments. All the works on this podcast received their Washington premiere at this 1998 concert by the New York–based Music From China ensemble and the New Music Consort. Two of the works were inspired by the eighth-century Buddhist caves in Dunhuang, where music scores were found along with a trove of ancient religious manuscripts.

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A Legend of Indian Classical Music:
Vidushi Veena Sahasrabuddhe, vocals

One of India’s greatest classical vocalists, Vidushi Veena Sahasrabuddhe, performs music dedicated to the Hindu goddess of learning and the arts, Saraswati, and to the goddess Durga, consort of Shiva and slayer of the buffalo demon Mahisha. In 2013, the late singer received India’s highest honor in the performing arts, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar, from the National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama. This concert was recorded in 1999 in conjunction with the exhibition Devi: The Great Goddess.

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Chinese Music of the Seasons:
Bing Xia, zheng

Celebrate the mid-autumn Moon Festival or get in the mood for spring with this entrancing performance on the ancient zheng (a zither) by virtuoso Bing Xia, a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory. She performs works devoted to the Moon (a key focus of the autumn festival), the fall migration of wild geese, and thoughts occasioned by the autumn season, as well as music invoking springtime, fishing, mountains, and rivers. This performance was recorded at the Freer and Sackler Galleries in 2000 in conjunction with the exhibition Music in the Age of Confucius.

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Two musicians seated on the floor, playing kamanchech (Persian fiddle) and tar (Persian lute)

Photo by Mohammad Kheirkah Zoyari

Masters of Persian Music:
Hossein Alizadeh and Kayhan Kalhor

Two of Iran’s most celebrated soloists joined forces in this performance of Persian classical music recorded at the Freer Gallery in 1997. In solos and duets, they explore the improvisational styles and emotive expressiveness unique to Persian music. Hossein Alizadeh, on the tār (Persian lute), has received two Grammy nominations, recorded more than two dozen CDs, and composed original soundtracks for award-winning feature films. Kayhan Kalhor, on the kamāncheh (Persian fiddle), was a founding member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad ensemble, earned three Grammy nominations, and recorded with the ground-breaking ensemble Brooklyn Rider. Alizadeh and Kalhor are accompanied by Pejman Hadadi on dombak.

(Photo by Mohammad Kheirkah Zoyari)

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detail of a manuscript cover, two bearded men holding two books, halos behind their heads

St. Mark and St. Luke; Right cover of The Washington Manuscript of the Gospels, F1906.298

Byzantine Chant: Advent and Christmas Music from Mt. Sinai

Cappella Romana, a leading Byzantine music ensemble of virtuoso singers from Greece, England, and the United States, performs “Medieval Byzantine Chant: Advent and Christmas from St. Catherine’s Monastery, Mt. Sinai, Egypt.” This concert was part of the Meyer Concert Series and was presented on November 30, 2006, in conjunction with the Sackler exhibition In the Beginning: Bibles Before the Year 1000, and in cooperation with the J. Paul Getty Museum exhibition Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai.

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Cambodian Classical Music:
Buddha Overcomes All Obstacles

Led by master musician Ngek Chum, Cambodian musicians from across the United States perform the undulating melodies and mellow percussion of classical Khmer music that accompanies Buddhist dance-dramas. This performance for the play Buddha Overcomes All Obstacles was produced by Cambodian American Heritage, Inc. (CAHI) and presented in 2018 in conjunction with the exhibition Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia.

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Krishna Mohan Bhatt performs Indian ragas on sitar, accompanied by tablas virtuoso Anindo Chatterjee on percussion. Their concert features an extensive rendition of raga Yaman Kalyan as well as music inspired by folk tunes and Bengali devotional songs.

Krishna Mohan Bhatt performs Indian ragas on sitar, accompanied by tablas virtuoso Anindo Chatterjee on percussion. Their concert features an extensive rendition of raga Yaman Kalyan as well as music inspired by folk tunes and Bengali devotional songs.

North Indian Classical Music:
Krishna Mohan Bhatt, sitar;
Anindo Chatterjee, tabla

Hear one of India’s most esteemed soloists as Krishna Mohan Bhatt performs Indian ragas on sitar, accompanied by tabla virtuoso Anindo Chatterjee on percussion. Their concert features an extensive rendition of raga Yaman Kalyan as well as music inspired by folk tunes and Bengali devotional songs. Yaman Kalyan is one of the most popular ragas and can be heard throughout Indian musical culture, from Bollywood film songs to the most elevated classical recitals.

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A photo of the Jasper Quartet.

Hear the award-winning Jasper String Quartet play two works by the Japanese composer Akira Nishimura: Spring, part of a larger project inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Pulse of Lights. The program also features Haydn’s Quartet op. 64, no. 6 and Mendelssohn’s lyrically beautiful String Quartet in D.

Jasper String Quartet:
Akira Nishimura’s Spring

Hear the award-winning Jasper String Quartet play two works by the Japanese composer Akira Nishimura: Pulse of Lights, which was premiered in Tokyo in 1992, and Spring, which received its world premiere at this concert and is inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

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Virtuosos from the Siberian republic of Tuva sing on the steps of the Freer Gallery of Art in 2002.

Four virtuosos from the Siberian republic of Tuva astonished listeners with their overtone singing in this concert, which was recorded on the steps of the Freer Gallery of Art in 2002.

Throat Singers from Tuva:
Huun-Huur-Tu

Four virtuosos from the Siberian republic of Tuva astonished listeners with their overtone singing in this concert at the Freer Gallery. Each singer’s ability to produce multiple pitches at once draws on ancient pastoral music that invokes the rich sounds of nature, from waterfalls and babbling brooks to complex bird songs and the howling winds of the steppe. This live performance was recorded on the steps of the Freer Gallery of Art in 2002.

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Chinese Bronze Age bells.

Hear new music for Bronze Age bells, recent works for Chinese instruments, folk songs in modern arrangements by Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long, and musical scores found in the 11th-century Buddhist caves in Dunhuang. Grammy-nominated composer Zhou Tian’s Hundred Antiquities was co-commissioned by the Freer and Sackler Galleries in conjunction with the exhibition Resound: Ancient Bells of China.

Hundred Antiquities: Music From China

Hear new music for Bronze Age bells, folk songs arranged by Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long, music from 11th-century Buddhist caves, and “Hundred Antiquities” by Grammy-nominated composer Zhou Tian, co-commissioned by the Freer and Sackler Galleries. This concert was presented in 2018 in conjunction with the exhibition Resound: Ancient Bells of China.

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Katherine Chi sitting at the piano.

Camille Saint-Saëns’s gorgeously romantic Fifth Piano Concert, written while the composer lived in Luxor, forms the heart of this recital of piano music inspired by Egypt. This performance was presented at the Freer Gallery in 2017 in conjunction with the exhibition Divine Felines: Cats in Ancient Egypt.

Inspired by Egypt:
Katherine Chi and Dina Vainshtein, pianos

Camille Saint-Saëns’s gorgeously romantic Fifth Piano Concert, written while the composer lived in Luxor, forms the heart of this recital of music inspired by Egypt. Hear it performed in the composer’s own rapturous arrangement for two pianos. Also enjoy the atmospheric Canope, Claude Debussy’s musical response to funerary urns from the ancient Nile, and Anton Arensky’s charming Egyptian Nights, written for Russia’s Imperial Ballet. The concert concludes with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s spectacular Études-tableaux. This performance was presented at the Freer Gallery in 2017 in conjunction with the exhibition Divine Felines: Cats in Ancient Egypt.

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Songs of Okinawa: The Ryukyuans

Enjoy music unique to Japan’s southernmost region, from the lyrical songs and dance rhythms of folk music to contemporary styles inspired by jazz and pop. The Ryukyuans trio features Yukito Ara, Isamu Shimoji, and Shinobu Matsuda on vocals and the sanshin (Okinawan lute). They are joined by Satoshi “Sunday” Nakasone on Okinawan drum. Recorded in concert at the Freer Gallery as part of the Music From Japan Festival 2014.

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Experience soulful and celebratory music from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with Shashmaqam, an ensemble of prominent artists from New York’s Central Asian community. This performance was presented in 2018 in conjunction with the exhibition To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia.

Music of Central Asia: Shashmaqam

Experience soulful and celebratory music from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan with Shashmaqam, an ensemble of prominent artists from New York’s Central Asian community. The ensemble specializes in wedding music for vocals, lute (tar), accordion, and percussion, as well as the region’s classical repertoire for which the group is named. This performance was presented in 2018 in conjunction with the exhibition To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia.

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Detail, At Ease in the Countryside: Scholars and Fishermen. Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783–1856).

Much of the Japanese and Chinese music heard on this podcast evokes some aspect of nature: waves, birds, trees, sunrise, and the seasons. Japanese artists have sometimes depicted the koto (or a related instrument) being played by scholars contemplating the natural world, as in the screen above—an approach incorporated from Chinese tradition. Detail, At Ease in the Countryside: Scholars and Fishermen. Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783–1856). Japan, Edo period, 19th century. Six-panel screen; ink and light color on paper. Purchase, F1961.1

Music for the Soul:
From East Asia to the Middle East

Relax with gentle yet invigorating music performed by virtuoso artists from Japan, China, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and the United States. These diverse concerts were recorded live at the Freer and Sackler Galleries between 2008 and 2019.

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Gao Hong and Issam Rafea perform on the Chinese and Arab lutes on September 14, 2019.

Enjoy these soothing, sophisticated duets on Chinese and Arab lutes by virtuosos of the pipa and ‘ud. Gao Hong and Issam Rafea engage in musical conversations that highlight the expressive magic of instruments that share common roots but are rarely heard together.

Musical Encounters along the Silk Road:
Gao Hong, pipa, and Issam Rafea, ‘ud

Enjoy these soothing, sophisticated duets on Chinese and Arab lutes, improvised by virtuosos Gao Hong on the pipa and Issam Rafea on the ‘ud. Their musical conversations highlight the expressive magic of two instruments that share common roots but are rarely heard together.

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Kadri Gopalnath in performance at Le Guess Who? (Netherlands) in 2018 (photo leguesswho.nl)

Saxophone Summit: Kadri Gopalnath and Rudresh Mahanthappa

Kadri Gopalnath and Rudresh Mahanthappa, two leading artists from American jazz and Indian classical music, combine their prodigious talents in this one-of-a-kind collaboration. They are backed up by an all-star lineup of guitarist Rez Abbasi, violinist A. Kanyakumari, drummers Royal Hartigan and Poovalur Sriji, and bassist Carlo de Rosa.

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Vocalist Ustād Mahwash performing at the Freer and Sackler Galleries

Vocalist Ustād Mahwash is accompanied by Ahsan Ahmad on tabla (drums) and Khalil Ragheb on vocals and harmonium (keyboard) in performance at the Freer and Sackler Galleries in January 2017 within the exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan.

The Art of Afghan Music: Ustād Mahwash, vocals

Afghanistan’s most beloved singer, Ustād Farīda Mahwash, performs romantic Persian poetry, Kabuli songs, and Afghan folk music. She received the BBC World Music Award for the CD Radio Kaboul. A former star on Radio Afghanistan, Mahwash left the country in 1991 and now lives and performs in the United States. Ahsan Ahmad on tabla (drums) and Khalil Ragheb on vocals and harmonium (keyboard) accompany her.

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“The Shanghai Quartet performs composer Ye Xiaogang’s Colorful Sutra Banner as part of the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series. The quartet is accompanied by Gloria Chien on the piano.”

Colorful Sutra Banner: Shanghai Quartet, with Gloria Chien, Piano

Hear composer Ye Xiaogang’s musical work Colorful Sutra Banner, inspired by the Buddhist prayer flags he saw in the Tibetan landscape. The same artists who played the composition’s American premiere at Lincoln Center perform on this podcast. Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E-flat Major and Franck’s Piano Quintet in F Minor complete the program.

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Wu Man and Shanghai Quartet

Shanghai Quartet with Wu Man, pipa

Two-time Grammy nominee Wu Man performs on pipa (Chinese lute) with the Shanghai Quartet for Red Lantern by Zhao Jiping and Zhao Lin, based on the soundtrack to Zhang Yimou’s Oscar-nominated film Raise the Red Lantern.  She and the quartet also perform Tan Dun’s seminal work, Ghost Opera. Completing the program are two pieces for the quartet: Yi-wen Jiang’s ChinaSong and Song of the Ch’in, by Grammy nominee Zhou Long.

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The Art of Afghan Music: Quraishi, rubab

Enjoy music from Afghanistan as Quraishi performs on the rubāb. The twenty “sympathetic strings” of Afghanistan’s national instrument give this traditional lute a hauntingly beautiful sound. Quraishi performs folk melodies from across the country and Afghan classical music dating to nineteenth-century Kabul, when the city’s rulers imported outstanding musicians from Lahore.

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Woman in white jumpsuit sings on theater stage while surrounded by seven seated musicians.

Syrian vocalist Nadia Raies performed songs from the 1942 film Mamnu’ Al Hubb (Love is Forbidden), the 1958 film Ma Lish Gheirak (I Have No One but You), and the 1959 film Irham Hubbi (Have Mercy for My Love) with the Simon Shaheen Ensemble.

Musical Gems of Arab Cinema

Enjoy classic film music from the golden age of Arab cinema, the 1930s to the 1960s. Simon Shaheenperforms on the ‘ud (Arab lute) and violin with Syrian vocalist Nadia Raies, ney (flute) master Bassam Saba, and an ensemble of qanun (Arab zither), violins, cello, and percussion. Recorded live in concert at the Freer|Sackler on June 21, 2018.

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Simon Shaheen performing on the Arab lute.

Enjoy an invigorating blend of music from the worlds of jazz, Latin, and Arab traditions. Joining composer, violinist, and ‘ud (Arab lute) virtuoso Simon Shaheen is a genre-crossing ensemble on ney (Arab flute), qanun (Arab zither), guitar, violin, cello, and percussion. Recorded live in concert at the Freer|Sackler on June 23, 2018.

Arab-Latin-Jazz Fusions: Simon Shaheen and Qantara

Enjoy an invigorating blend of music from the worlds of jazz, Latin, and Arab traditions. Joining composer, violinist, and ‘ud (Arab lute) virtuoso Simon Shaheen is a genre-crossing ensemble on ney (Arab flute), qanun (Arab zither), guitar, violin, cello, and percussion. Recorded live in concert at the Freer|Sackler on June 23, 2018.

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Musicians from Marlboro: Penderecki and Brahms

Violinist Robin Scott, a member of the Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet, joins four other participants in the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival to perform Krzysztof Penderecki’s String Trio and Johannes Brahms’ String Quintet, op. 88. He performs with violinist Tessa Lark, violists Rebecca Albers and Molly Carr, and cellist Marcy Rosen.

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Members of the Miyabi Koto Shamisen Ensemble posing for a photo.

Hear new and traditional music for Japanese instruments performed by this ensemble of fourteen kotos with shamisen and shakuhachi. Based in New York, the Miyabi Ensemble extends the range of music for Japanese instruments through an array of innovative styles. Guest artists John Kaizan Neptune on shakuhachi, guitarist Michael Gilsinan, and percussionist Manny Arciniega join ensemble director Masayo Ishigure for this concert. Masayo Ishigure can be heard on the Golden Globe-winning soundtrack to the feature film Memoirs of a Geisha.

Miyabi Koto Shamisen Ensemble

Hear new and traditional music for Japanese instruments performed by this ensemble of fourteen kotos with shamisen and shakuhachi. Based in New York, the Miyabi Ensemble extends the range of music for Japanese instruments through an array of innovative styles. Guest artists John Kaizan Neptune on shakuhachi, guitarist Michael Gilsinan, and percussionist Manny Arciniega join ensemble director Masayo Ishigure for this concert. Masayo Ishigure can be heard on the Golden Globe-winning soundtrack to the feature film Memoirs of a Geisha.

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Members of the Silkroad Ensemble performing a new composition at the Freer|Sackler.

The Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble gives the world premiere of a major new composition that Silkroad musicians, inspired by works of art on view in the galleries, wrote for the Freer|Sackler. Performing in this debut are Sandeep Das on tabla (Indian drums), Kojiro Umezaki on shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Shaw Pong Liu on violin and erhu (Chinese fiddle), Wu Tong on vocals and sheng (Chinese mouth organ), Jeffrey Beecher on bass, and Shane Shanahan on percussion.

Silkroad Ensemble: Musical Postcards from the Freer|Sackler

The Grammy Award-winning Silkroad Ensemble gives the world premiere of a major new composition that Silkroad musicians, inspired by works of art on view in the galleries, wrote for the Freer|Sackler. Performing in this debut are Sandeep Das on tabla (Indian drums), Kojiro Umezaki on shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Shaw Pong Liu on violin and erhu (Chinese fiddle), Wu Tong on vocals and sheng (Chinese mouth organ), Jeffrey Beecher on bass, and Shane Shanahan on percussion.

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Buddhist Music from Zhihua Temple

Hear Buddhist music from seventeenth-century China as the Zhihua Buddhist Temple Ensemble performs on traditional ritual instruments. This six-person group features two members of the twenty-seventh generation of Zhihua musicians, a long-time artist with the Shanghai Peking Opera House Orchestra, and a former member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble.

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Baila Music from Sri Lanka: The Gypsies

Get ready to move to the infectious rhythms of baila, a unique form of dance music from Sri Lanka that originated among Portuguese fishermen and enslaved people from Africa in the colonial period. Modern baila is now popular in Sri Lankan communities around the world, played at parties, weddings, and dance clubs. This concert was recorded on the Freer Gallery’s plaza, facing the National Mall, in conjunction with the exhibition Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

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Nowruz Performance

Persian Music: Sahba Motallebi, tār

Sahba Motallebi performs classical and original music for Iranian lutes as part of the Freer|Sackler’s Persian New Year celebration. She is one of the few women worldwide who plays these instruments in major concert halls. Motallebi specializes in Persian classical music, a tradition of virtuoso improvisation based on melodic modes chosen to reflect the mood of the musician and the occasion.

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The Lightbulb Ensemble performing Hamsa: Five Tales on traditional Balinese gamelan with organ, guitar, and voice in 2016. Their performance at the Hammer Auditorium was part of Performing Indonesia: Islamic Intersections, a joint presentation of the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler, George Washington University, and the Embassy of Indonesia.

The Lightbulb Ensemble: Tales of Hamsa

In this virtuoso performance, a traditional Balinese gamelan orchestra combines with organ, guitar, and voice to tell the allegorical story of a beggar’s perplexing dreams about the Five Pillars of Islam. With entrancing music by Brian Baumbusch and libretto by Paul Baumbusch, this compelling music puts the shimmering sounds of gamelan in an entirely new context. Presented in 2016 as part of the festival Performing Indonesia: Islamic Intersections.

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Painting with Music: Bell Yung, qin

Bell Yung performs on the qin at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in conjunction with the exhibition Painting with Words: Gentleman Artists of the Ming Dynasty. He is emeritus professor of music at the University of Pittsburgh. He specializes in the history and theory of music of the qin as well as Chinese ritual music and Cantonese opera and narrative songs. The qin he plays, named Pines in Ten Thousand Gullies, dates to the late Ming dynasty.

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two musicians on stage playing instruments

The Art of Afghan Music

Homayun Sakhi, rubāb; Salar Nader, tabla
Enjoy Afghan folk and classical music performed by Homayun Sakhi, a leading exponent of the eighteen-stringed rubāb (lute). He performs folk songs from Kabul, dance tunes from the Panjsher Valley, and Indian ragas that Afghans have prized since the Mughal era. Homayun Sakhi has performed at Carnegie Hall with Salar Nader and is featured on two Smithsonian Folkways recordings. His appearances at the Freer|Sackler were presented in 2016 in collaboration with the Aga Khan Music Initiative and in conjunction with the exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan.

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