Banjo and Guzheng: Teacher Notes
I came across this video of musicians Abigail Washburn & Wu Fei and just knew that I wanted to share it with students. Here's a description of the duo from Wu Fei's website:
It is not often that a string duo bends space and time, and yet here are Fei and Washburn presenting the first and only guzheng and banjo duet. The dulcet sounds of Fei’s ancient Chinese 21-string zither rings harmoniously with Washburn’s virtuosic clawhammer picking. It is as if these self-professed musical soulmates started digging on opposite sides of the globe only to find their cultural roots inextricably intertwined. Beijing-born Fei is a classically trained, multilingual composer whose wide range of commissions include works for symphonies, film, and modern dance, and Washburn is a Grammy-winning performer (Béla Fleck duo) who is fluent in Mandarin.
What I share with kids:
Today I'm excited to share about two very different instruments: the banjo and the guzheng.
Each of these instruments has been around for a long time and has a place in folk music from their specific regsions. The banjo shows up in North American music genres like country, folk, blues, jazz, and sometimes rock. The guzheng features in Asian folk, traditional, pop, and rock music.
In the video below you'll see two artists, Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn, put the guzheng and banjo together and blend the styles of both into one exciting song! You'll hear them play their instruments and then sing in both English and Chinese. Watch below to see!
Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn may seem like an unlikely pairing. Wu is a Beijing-born classically trained composer and master player of an ancient Chinese zither called the guzheng, while Washburn is a singer and banjo player from Illinois. (Both live in Nashville.) But Wu and Washburn have both has focused significant parts of their career on studying and expanding on folk music across the world. In many ways, the women’s musical works are far more alike than they are different.