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Yo Yo Ma Saves the World with Bach;
Kids' Orchestra Eases Pain of War in Afghanistan
It’s “This Week in Classical Music”, an update on what’s happening in the classical music world; I’m Randy Kinkel.
Yo Yo Ma is on a Mission to save the world… with Bach.
Last month, Cellist Yo Yo Ma released his third and, in all probability, final recording of the Bach cello suites. It’s a relaxed, confident interpretation. But he’s not stopping there. He’s going on tour worldwide to promote the album AND introduce as many people as possible to the music of Bach.
In Bach’s hometown of Leipzig He visited a community center with his Stradivarius cello in hand, grinning and giving high fives to the adults and kids gathered there.
Over the next two years, he will visit 36 cities (mirroring the 36 sections of the bach cello suites). His Next stop is Washington, on November 29th. In each city, he will pair a performance of the full cycle — two and a half hours of music, played with barely a pause — with what he’s calling a “day of action” that brings Bach into the community.
The day of his recital in Leipzig, he said, “I’m thinking of what happened in Chemnitz,” an hour’s drive away, where anti-immigrant riots had raged a few days earlier.
Ma’s tour is a small but deeply felt attempt to suggest that this music by Bach, with its simplicity, empathy, and delicate grace, could, if heard closely by enough people, change the world.
The Yo Yo Ma Album is called “Six evolutions: Bach Cello Suites.”
Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly war weighs heavy on the nation’s civilians, and women bear the brunt of the violence.
The Taliban banned music and girls’ education, and restricted outdoor activities of women when it was controlling most of Afghanistan. But acts of violence and social pressures have not kept members of the country’s orchestra of young girls from using music to “heal wounds” and promote women’s rights in the strictly conservative Muslim society.
The ensemble, known as Zohra, was founded in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul, where suicide bombings lately have become routine. Zohra is the name of a music goddess in Persian literature.
Students and trainers are not losing hope and regularly come to the city’s only institute to rehearse and learn new lessons, says Ahmed Naser Sarmast, founder of the orchestra.
Sarmast says that girls and boys in the orchestra come from different Afghan ethnic groups and they help each other when needed “I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful, if I can call it a beautiful weapon, to transform our community,” the director said.
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