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Testing The Power of the Pipa

The Han dynasty comes alive with the performance of Zhong Yufeng 鍾玉鳳 on the pipa at Taipei’s National Theater & Concert Hall.

Zhong Yufeng to perform the pipa at NTHC Taipei. Music Press Asia

For two nights (14 & 15 April) only, Taiwan will be revealing the fortitude of the pipa; a popular traditional stringed instrument that began its prominence during the Han Dynasty.

Taiwanese musician and composer Zhong Yufeng is on a constant search for new creative space for the pipa. The four-stringed lute commonly associated with classical Han Chinese music.

For this performance, entitled “Pendulum”, Zhong Yufeng is presenting a program of original compositions. Accompanying a cadre of Taiwanese musicians of diverse musical and cultural backgrounds is the appearance of Atayal singer Inka Mbing. Ever adventurous and curious about music from around the globe, Zhong has long approached her work with these questions in mind: How much of the Han influence is relevant to the pipa today, especially from a Taiwanese perspective? How does one harness the full potential of this traditional instrument in a contemporary setting?

“When you start to sway
And you want to lose control again
The pipa’s impulse is
To swing like the hammer on a pendulum
Time disappears
And all that’s left is a beat of desire”

The compositions of “Pendulum” reflect this quest, as well as her desire to explore her instrument outside of the common contexts of the traditional Chinese music orchestra or the pop music world. Consequently, when Chung engages with the pipa, it almost becomes an instrument in a literal sense — measuring, detecting, and repurposing unfamiliar rhythms and sounds. The result is music that strikes a fresh balance between the traditional and the contemporary – music that relishes encounters with new vocabularies – and ultimately offers a renewed sense of freedom.

The concert is set to take place at Taipei’s National Theater & Concert Hall (NTCH). For more information about the venue, program and ticketing, click here.

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