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The multicultural collaboration featuring 18-time GRAMMY Award-winner and UN Messenger of Peace Yo-Yo Ma receive a rapturous reception from the sold-out Abu Dhabi Festival audience

Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma 2nd Apr 2017

Sensational Silk Road Ensemble and Internationally Revered Cellist Yo-Yo Ma bring the 2017 Abu Dhabi Festival to a close

Hailed for redefining music in the 21st century, the Silk Road Ensemble took to the Emirates Palace Auditorium stage last night in front of a sold-out audience. Under the direction of renowned cellist, UN Messenger of Peace and 18-time GRAMMY Award-winner, Yo-Yo Ma, the Ensemble comprises musicians from more than 20 countries, including celebrated clarinettist Kinan Azmeh. Enthralling the audience with a performance that explored an array of cultures, the Ensemble’s Abu Dhabi Festival debut was attended by Festival Patron, H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, and H.E. Huda Ebrahim Alkhamis, Founder of ADMAF and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival.


Celebrating the multiplicity of approaches to music from around the world, the audience experienced a mesmerising concert, including renditions of ‘Silent City’ (a universal testament to fallen cities and communities, featuring the internationally acclaimed kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor) and ‘Wedding’ (composed by Kinan Azmeh, capturing the spirit of a wedding party in a Syrian village), which is on the Ensemble’s 2017 GRAMMY award-winning album ‘Sing Me Home’. Performing on instruments ranging from world percussion, ancient instruments to strings and woodwind, these storytellers draw on the rich tapestry of traditions that make up our shared cultural heritage through the universal musical language.


H.E. Huda Ebrahim Alkhamis, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival said; “The Silk Road Ensemble’s electrical performance is an outstanding example of ADMAF’s commitment to creating unique cultural experiences through the Abu Dhabi Festival. We are also extremely proud to honour the renowned cellist, advocate and educator Yo-Yo Ma and his efforts to harness the unifying power of culture through the 2017 Abu Dhabi Festival Awards.

As the curtain closes on another successful Festival, this year we have presented the artistic excellence of eight countries, including the UAE, while demonstrating the remarkable creative capital inherent within the nation’s young people and emerging practitioners. Once again, we have spread our wings across the world, engaging audiences across the UAE, Europe and beyond through new productions, concerts and exhibitions made possible by the Abu Dhabi Festival.”


In addition to the Ensemble’s busy touring schedule, they also deliver a range of educational programmes focused on connecting people, ideas and music from around the world. During their Abu Dhabi Festival debut visit, the Ensemble led a young musician workshops at New York University Abu Dhabi, which also played host to a screening of their latest documentary ‘The Music of Strangers’ directed by the Oscar-winning Morgan Neville.


The Silk Road Ensemble was founded in 2000 by Yo-Yo Ma to bring together musicians from diverse countries and musical traditions. The project was inspired by the exchange of knowledge and ideas that took place along the historical Silk Road (100BC–1300AD). It has performed in various locations along the historic Silk Road, including Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, India, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.


In recognition of their outstanding contribution to music, education and cross-cultural unity, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble were presented with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award, in association with Chopard, by Festival Patron H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development.


During his illustrious career, Yo-Yo Ma has performed for eight American Presidents – most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inauguration Ceremony. He has received numerous awards, among them the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the National Medal of Arts (2001) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010). Whether performing works from the cello repertoire, collaborating on chamber music or exploring cultures and musical forms outside the Western classical tradition, Mr Ma strives to find connections that stimulate the imagination.


While the 2017 Abu Dhabi Festival has ended, its adventures into the UAE natural environment continue with ‘The Art of Nature’ exhibition of UAE contemporary art at Umm Al Emarat Park until Saturday 23 April accompanied by a diverse education programme under the patronage of H.H. Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan. This includes Artists in Conversation sessions (7pm, 1 & 10 April), a mobile photography workshop led by Emirati artist Reem Saeed (4-5.30pm, 21 April) as well as regular guided tours and a children’s activities area offering daily workshops and storytelling sessions.

The Abu Dhabi Festival is presented and organised by Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation. ADMAF is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that seeks to nurture the arts, education, culture and creativity for the benefit of society and advancement of Abu Dhabi’s cultural vision. 

For further information, please visit the Festival website Abu Dhabi Festival can also be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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About Abu Dhabi Festival

Under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, the Abu Dhabi Festival is the UAE’s leading celebration of arts and culture. Launched in 2004, it continues to attract the highest calibre of artists to the UAE capital every year. The Festival has secured its place as the Arabian Gulf’s largest cultural event and has established partnerships with some of the world’s most influential cultural institutions including the Institut du Monde Arabe, Institut Francais, Edinburgh International Festival, Royal Opera House and Carnegie Hall. In addition to a world-class, multidisciplinary programme at Emirates Palace, the Festival’s educational and community programmes bring together artists, students, community groups and cultural organisations from across the UAE. The Abu Dhabi Festival actively supports emerging Emirati talent and advocates the importance of arts and culture in all aspects of life in the UAE.

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