The Wu-Force Self-Titled Debut EP Out For Lunar New Year
The Wu-Force, the self-described kung fu-Appalachian-indie-folk-rock trio of banjo, guzheng and keyboards
January 27, the day before the Lunar New Year, marks the release of the debut EP by the Wu-Force, the self-described kung fu-Appalachian-indie-folk-rock trio of banjo, guzheng (Chinese zither) and keyboards. Inspired by Chinese opera, garage rock, old Shanghai jazz and Appalachian hymns, these very different musicians from very different backgrounds are united by a shared vision of a world, where differences unite instead of divide.
Born in 2010, out of an evening of conversation, imbibing, and musical improvisation in a Beijing apartment, three friends - clawhammer banjo player Abigail Washburn, AM pop maestro / multi-instrumentalist Kai Welch and Wu Fei, Beijing-born guzheng virtuoso and Tzadik recording artist - adapted to one another's diverse sounds and discovered that they felt similarly wary of trends in globalization, urbanization, and technology.
"Our music was just too weird and poignant, unlike anything we had heard before, and yet we couldn't get the songs out of our heads," adds Washburn, a Mandarin speaker and TED fellow who spoke on 'Building US-China Relations...by Banjo.' "We recorded our first acoustic demos in a kindergarten classroom on an early Saturday morning in Beijing, right before Kai and I flew back to the US. None of us knew if this music would ever reach out beyond us."
Produced by Welch, the Wu-Force EP tells stories of the struggle to connect in the face of divisive forces, with music they hope can speak to people of any walk of life, in any culture around the world. "Paper Lanterns" is a reaction to Chinese workers trying - and often failing - to return to their families for the Lunar New Year. "We knew we were on to something when Fei and I kept breaking into tears in the middle of the song," Washburn remembers.
"Good Girl" is the story of a girl from the countryside who leaves for the big city. She becomes a prostitute, eager send money home to her poor farming family. "Kung Fu Cowboy" is their straight-up theme song, and "Muckrakers" is the frenetic, incessant energy of life in a city, especially a Chinese city, from the perspective of someone who doesn't have the money or privilege to float above any of it. The one thing they have is their voice, and this is an anthem to having, and using, that voice. "这是我的，不是你的 ('this is mine / this is not yours).'
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