Season: 10th- 16th April

“We speak perfect Music.”

I’m taking the time to post this now, the same night I viewed it, because you’ve only got till Sunday to catch this remarkable piece of docu-musical history on the big screen, at Somerville, as part of PIAF 2017.

If you had asked me yesterday who Yo-Yo Ma is, I could’ve told you that he’s the only world-class cellist whose name I know. That he is also a truly world-class human being, I got to find out while being uplifted by the music and the story behind The Silk Road Ensemble. Ma was, ahem, instrumental in establishing this multi-cultural, multi-lingual, 60-or-so-strong ensemble in 1998. With members from China, Iran, Syria, the USA, India, Galicia and many other lands and tribes, it began as a project to learn through experimentation and experience whether music really is a trans-cultural, lingua-franca, possessing enough life-affirming, unifying light to shine away the darkness that seems to threaten all human culture in our troubled times.

I sat down at Somerville Auditorium fully prepared for classical elitism and snobbery but was soon being entertained by the likes of classical Chinese pipa player Wu Man, playing a Led Zeppelin riff …and who knew the Spanish also have a bagpipe tradition? I was elevated to tears of both joy and bitterness at points throughout.

This heart-warming, heart-breaking documentary goes into the lives of a few of its members, some who make use of the opportunity to shine a light upon, amongst others, the world of Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, when they go to a jaw-droppingly massive camp to teach music to the children, trapped there by our collective penury of political will.

Or the rural Chinese troupe of ancient musicians and puppeteers who belt out their own brand of what they themselves compare to rock-and-roll, while waxing philosophical about there not being a 13th generation of musicians and puppeteers to follow in their footsteps.

In some ways, this piece of cinema seems wistfully akin to a aural version of those Seed Bank Projects, that seek to preserve a piece of something otherwise destined for oblivion, simply because nobody found out a way to measure it in dollars.

I’ve been enjoying the soundtrack as I write this review. I rated it a highly-recommended 5 out of 5 stars at the Somerville Exit Poll and only wish I could’ve rated it higher in hindsight.

VIEW TRAILER: The Music of Strangers.