Big and Silky 

Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project comes to UC Berkeley with a fascinating cross-cultural bazaar.

The Silk Road Project began in 1998 when cellist Yo-Yo Ma decided the cross-cultural exchange that took place on the ancient land route between Europe and Asia was still worth celebrating in the age of the Internet and globalized economy. That impulse resulted in an international caravan of the arts that began touring in August 2001 and has since visited Germany, Japan, Holland, Washington, DC -- and now UC Berkeley.

The events surrounding the project are numerous and multifaceted -- a full-fledged residency. A few highlights are already sold out, such as Cal Performances' Zellerbach Hall concert by Ma and the Mark Morris Dance Group this weekend, two concerts featuring Ma and musicians from Silk Road countries (Tuesday and Wednesday, April 23 and 24), and the $500-per-person Silk Road Festival Gala at the Berkeley Art Museum next Tuesday, April 23. But don't fret. This caravan is long and has delights for everyone.

Speaking from New York, Silk Road's Project Director Esther Won stresses the project's grassroots accessibility. "We gave the participating cities the charge to do something unique and creative, to make [the various high-profile shows] part of a larger festival by including their local Silk Road Diaspora communities," says Won. With its cross-cultural bent, Berkeley was a natural, and the April 19-28 residency is the only university-based stop on Silk Road's journey. "What developed was a sort of laboratory, creating its own veritable Silk Road around the idea of getting all these communities to connect. Perhaps Yo-Yo was the inspiration, but ninety percent of the energy has come from local communities."

Most of the concurrent events are interesting enough to stand alone: the "Masterworks of Chinese Painting" exhibition at BAM, through May 26; next Monday's Silk Road Conference of lectures at UCB's Hertz Hall; a Thursday, April 25 "Schooltime Performance" by Ma and other artists at Zellerbach ($3 for students); a concert by the Silk Road musicians (sans Ma) at Hertz Hall on Sunday, April 28; and other activities too numerous to list here. For more info, log onto


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