Music Series: Abigail Washburn’s Musical Inspiration from China (Updated)

Banjo player and singer Abigail Washburn, from Illinois, had a chance to go to Chengdu, China, in 1996 and challenged herself to learn Chinese and local operas. Thereafter, she combined the roots of American music with Chinese culture in a “labor of love.”

Below is part of her biography from her official site:

In 2008 and 2009, Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet will turn their attention to touring the US and Canada with appearances at festivals including New Orleans Jazz & Heritage, Merlefest, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Vancouver Folk Festival and many more. They returned to China with the full-length release for performances at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

While previewing new material at Coachella, the LA Times hailed, “”Washburn stomped and skipped through fiery Appalachian takes on the local songs of Sichuan. Her bilingualism’s no gimmick; she nails the dips and peaks of pitch while leading her band in scorching variations on simple, repetitive traditional melodies… she ended one Chinese song about the pan-ethnic subject of baby-making by saying “That’s some hot stuff from the Sichuan province there.”

“I had no intention of becoming a performer and yet under miraculous circumstances I was brought into the music industry fold,” says Abigail. “If divine powers hadn’t interfered I’d still be living in China working in some area of Sino-American comparative law.”

An interview with her and her band, which investigates their connection with China and Chinese culture:

And here’s a video of The Sparrow Quartet performing “Kangding Qingge ” live:

For more her music, please check here.

Update: Josh Chin has posted an interview with Abigail Washburn on GlobalPost:

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