Feng-Jun Song

Mountain Caravan

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AllMusic Review by

The expression "global village" has become a cliché emptied of its essence, but listening to Feng-Jün Song's CD Mountain Caravan reactivates it beautifully. A Chinese opera singer, Song collaborates here with Czech musicians. Borrowing from East-Asian folk traditions, they devised a set of pieces that put traditional singing and folk melodies in a new setting. The violin, acoustic guitar, cello, piano, and percussion of the quartet (Helena Vedralová, Jirí Vedral, Martin Smolka, and Tomás Ondrusek) alternately refer to the East, the West, the North, and the South, encompassing Oriental, African, and Occidental cultures. Song is a fantastic performer, her voice elegantly following the sinuosities of Chinese, Tibetan, Korean, and Taiwanese melodies. These and the sonority of the languages give the music a strong Eastern influence of course, but the arrangements also anchor it in both classical and popular idioms of Western music, with an occasional bit of East-European folk surfacing, resulting in a unique hybrid of art song. The piano-voice duet "Sewing on Golden Silk" defies geographical and chronological tables to offer a fascinating song. The opener "Turtle-Dove's Tones" also stands as a highlight -- both music and voice have the grace of Kate Bush in her younger years. Mountain Caravan is not an attempt at crudely stamping foreign melodies over a commercial Western beat. It is the work of a woman involved in the comparative studies of musical cultures, working with dedicated musicians to find a "common ground." No sampling, no tricks; just acoustic instruments, an incredible voice, and timeless melodies. This CD was released by the Czech label Black Point. The booklet contains notes and translated lyrics in Czech and English. Strongly recommended.

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