Various Artists

The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan

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The term "Silk Road" applies to a number of trade routes that were frequented by merchants and other travellers through Eurasia between 200 BC and 1500 AD. These actually included both land and sea routes, and would have brought travellers into contact with a wide variety of social, political and, as this generous two-disc set makes plain, musical cultures. Organized and overseen by famed cellist Yo Yo Ma, The Silk Road is a sort of musical travelogue that documents some of these widely disparate musical traditions. Each of the two discs offers a slightly different focus: the first is titled "Masters & Traditions," and focuses on what would be considered "classical" music in each of the cultures represented; the second, "Minstrels & Lovers," presents what might be considered pop or folk music, divided into nomadic, festal and spiritual subgenres. For many Western listeners, the classical traditions will actually be more familiar, which is part of what makes this collection fun -- while many of us have heard the occasional example of Tibetan throat singing or Japanese shakuhachi music, it's likely that the pishro tradition of Azerbaijan or Uzbekistani lute music or the elaborate Jew's harp techniques of Kazakhstan will be a new experience for many. Highly recommended to anyone with an ethnomusicological bent.

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