- Title: USA: Young American singer finds her feet in Chinese bluegrass
- Date: 9th February 2006
- Summary: ABIGAIL WASHBURN AND BEN SOLLEE ON STAGE
- Embargoed: 24th February 2006 12:00
- Location: Usa
- Country: USA
- Topics: Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVAEASQKV07SUZKPOKDUBTFQ9ENA
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Abigail Washburn has the small audience in Washington D.C. captivated.
Not because she is young and beautiful in an all American way, but because as she strums her banjo, she delivers her lyrics in Mandarin.
Born in Illinois, the 28 year old discovered a love for China while studying abroad in her college years.
Falling in love with Chinese culture and learning the Mandarin language got her thinking about how to interpret American culture, which lead her to pick up a banjo and explore the rich heritage of bluegrass and folk music.
"I feel like I'm making a contribution to the transglobal existence and I feel like I'm on cloud nine when I get to do that. When I'm in front of a different type of audience that might be a little bit provincial or just focused on the general exchange going on, it's very exciting because I get to offer something that doesn't come around very often. I like that interaction, I think it's pretty thrilling and I get back a sense of what's going on in that part of the world," Washburn told Reuters before a concert Wednesday (February 1) at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center.
Washburn was working as an activist in Vermont when she landed her first tour gig with band 'The Cleary Brothers.' She then began playing with all female string band 'Uncle Earl'.
"My love of the banjo actually started after living in China. I lived in China for a period over several years in several long stints of six months and every time I returned to America I felt like I was newly oriented to my own culture and I think it was after my third time in China that I came back to America really searching for what it was I could love as deeply as what I loved about Chinese culture -- the richness of Chinese culture and I was looking for something like that in America that I could attach to, and become proud of my national identity through some kind of cultural piece," Washburn said, as she reflected on her musical evolution.
Washburn is currently teamed up with a young cellist from Kentucky, Ben Sollee.
They have recently returned from touring China, where they played in major cities as well as regional areas.
For those in the audience, listening to Washburn and Sollee was a window into a new kind of music.
"I've heard folk and Chinese music separately, but it was nice to hear a fusion of it tonight, very interesting sound that I haven't really heard together," one woman told Reuters.
Another woman in the audience understood why Washburn is gaining popularity in China.
"I'm sure that must be so thrilling for them, to have an American, who looks so beautifully American who can speak fluent Chinese and sing so beautifully in their language, I can see why they would love that," she said.
Washburn has recently released her first solo album titled 'Song of the Traveling Daughter'.
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