Chinese musicians striking a new note at Grammy

Updated 2018-01-30 14:20:01 Xinhua

Having seen few fellow Chinese musicians enter for awards or voting, two-time Grammy voting member Chen Zhen feels a strong sense of mission -- to bring Chinese music to the world stage.

Chen became the prestigious music award's voting member in 2016 as a New York-based multi-award winning concert pianist, composer and recording artist.

"I feel honored to be invited to do the job," he said on the sidelines of the 60th Grammy Awards held on Sunday, adding that he wanted to see more Chinese making bold attempts to perform and compete on the world stage.

Three years ago, one of his albums received high applause from professional music review publications such as Fanfare. That was part of the reason he was invited to the Grammy.

Now Chen's mission is to bring the East and West closer in sensibilities and musicality through composing and performing.

His cross-cultural and cross-genre album, "ERGO", which showcases new music for piano and Chinese folk instruments", has received praise for its "expressive, evocative, and colorful" melodies.

Chen's push ahead to fuse Eastern and Western music has seen him, together with renowned pipa performer Ma Lin, record a new album, "On & Between."

The new music for pipa, a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, and western ensembles depicts a new immigrant's expectations, hope, anxiety and excitement, telling a story of adaptation survival, and self-discovery.

"The pipa is the main character (threading) through the whole album," Ma explained. "It stands for a Chinese girl who just came to New York City. She wandered, struggled and went through phases of growth. After years, she finally gained a foothold in the new land."

To be released in May, the album contains 10 items. Each piece marks the stage of life and state of mind that the girl goes through, emphasized by the title.

The opening item, "Arrival", depicts how the girl feels on setting foot in a new country where she would pursue a better future.

The album has many unique characteristics, like incorporating many New York elements. The piece "Walking on the Fifth", for instance, presents a shopping scene on New York' s famous Fifth Avenue and the pipa plays with a jazz band.

Ma's pipa joins Western musical instruments such as the oboe, violin, viola, and cello.

"The challenge in this recording (was) to adjust the pipa's timbre and technique, so it can match Western musical instruments (better)," she said.

This year was Ma's first invitation to the Grammy show. The excited musician, who has been working hard to bring traditional Chinese music and the pipa to the world stage, now has a new dream -- that her music would win a Grammy one day.

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