Silkroad Ensemble to be Featured on PBS Docuseries


Silkroad Ensemble to be Featured on PBS Docuseries

The Grammy-winning arts organization is bringing its resonant American Railroad Initiative to a venue near you — and into your living room, too.

Silkroad is taking audiences on another cross-cultural musical journey. The enterprising ensemble that brings together musicians from the historic network of trade routes known as the Silk Road is illuminating the impact of the Transcontinental Railroad with a project named American Railroad.

The Transcontinental Railroad was built in the late 19th century and ultimately connected the country's coasts, although this massive feat came at a great cost in more ways than one. Chinese and Irish immigrants as well as African Americans were paid low wages to execute much of the manual labor, and indigenous communities were displaced and mistreated as construction trampled over their lands. An ambitious musical experience, American Railroad gives voice to the sacrifices of these laborers while contextualizing the "global diasporic origin of the American Empire." The project includes new music inspired by varied musical traditions, visual installations, an album, and educational materials for schools.

Soon after award-winning folk musician Rhiannon Giddens joined Silkroad as artistic director in 2020, she began envisioning this initiative. The ensemble embarked on artist retreats and visited the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakotas, New York City, and San Francisco, which yielded crucial research for the storytelling process. The American Railroad tour launched in 2023 and continues through this year. In addition, Season 2 of the PBS documentary series My Music with Rhiannon Giddens, which premieres on May 1, focuses on the Silkroad Ensemble and American Railroad.

Part touring ensemble, part nonprofit social impact organization, Silkroad was created by celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma in 1998. Supported by GRoW, the Grammy-winning ensemble also operates training workshops and residency programs in schools and prisons as well as indigenous and refugee communities.


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