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Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei

Artist Biography

Abigail Washburn is a Grammy award-winning vocalist, songwriter and clawhammer banjo player based in Nashville, TN. A Mandarin Chinese speaker, Abigail regularly toured China for 20 years, including a month-long tour of China's Silk Road supported by grants from the US Embassy, Beijing. Abigail's musical projects range from her string band, Uncle Earl, to her bilingual releases Song of the Traveling Daughter (2005) & City of Refuge (2011), to the mind-bending "chamber roots" sound of the Sparrow Quartet (featuring Béla Fleck, Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee), to Afterquake, her fundraiser CD for Sichuan earthquake victims. Her most recent record with her husband, Béla Fleck, won a 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. Abigail is a TED Fellow and gave a talk at the 2012 TED Convention in Long Beach titled "Building US-China Relationsby Banjo" where she spoke about her true story of shifting from a future in law to a pursuit of musical bridging. NPR voted Abigail's 2012 commencement speech at her alma mater, Colorado College, as one of the best 300 in US history. In March of 2013, she was commissioned by New York Voices and the NY Public Theater to write and debut a theatrical work, Post-American Girl, which drew from her then 17-year relationship with China and addressed themes of expanding identity, cultural relativism, pilgrimage, and the universal appeal of music. Abigail is also the first US-China Fellow at Vanderbilt University.

"Cell phones got alerts that a performance by Chinese guzheng player Wu Fei was at capacity." - Rolling Stone magazine, on Wu Fei's sold out solo performance at Big Ears music festival, March 2017.

Wu Fei is a native of Beijing and a current Nashville resident, is a master of the guzheng, the ancient 21-string Chinese zither. She was trained as a Western classical composer, a vocalist, and plays beautifully in the guzheng's vernacular-a musical language which is at least 2,000 years old. She mixes her Western and Chinese traditional sensibilities with a contemporary idiosyncratic, experimental dialect nurtured by years spent at Mills College and immersed in the New York downtown improvisation scene which revolved around venues like The Stone, where Fei has frequently performed and curated. Fei composes for choir, string quartet, chamber ensemble, Balinese gamelan, and orchestra; her commissions range from a composition for Percussions Claviers de Lyon that premiered in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing to live performances in Paris and Tokyo for luxury brand Hermès. In addition to her own original compositions, Fei has collaborated with many artists of different disciplines and genres ranging, from Béla Fleck to avant garde composer John Zorn. She has taken her guzheng and music around the world and touring highlights include composition premiere at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, the MoMA in New York City, North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, Vossa Jazz Festival in Norway, Europalia in Belgium, and the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN. Wu Fei was recently commissioned by Intersection Ensemble in Nashville, TN to create new classical work for guzheng, voice and western chamber ensemble which she titled If I Was A Batman Queen.

Together as an entirely unique banjo-guzheng duo and bonded by their bi-cultural sisterhood, Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei sing and perform original compositions inspired by weaving together Appalachian and Chinese folk songs. Abigail & Wu Fei will release their first duo record, produced by Béla Fleck, in the Fall of 2018. To support the mission behind their music, Washburn & Wu created an educational initiative called The Ripple Effect, which aims to bridge hearts and minds through cross-cultural collaboration, starting with the US and China, and the universal language of music.