Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma


World famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma created the Silk Road Ensemble gathering international musicians ‘who spoke different languages, played different instruments and came from different cultures’. He aimed to show the world ‘that art transcends political divisions’.

Other  projects incorporating design and dance followed before Yo-Yo Ma travelled to the Rio Grande. This is the division between Mexico and the United States, a border that divides ‘two countries that used to be one‘. Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma builds to this performance, but also explains the internationalism of the player, his development, the music he played and his instrument.

Alongside an almost melodic text from Joanna Ho, Teresa Martinez offers meandering pictures of wonder and fluency. Altogether, Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma is a beacon of hope and humanity, that Bookwagon recommends for sharing and reading aloud.

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Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma

Joanna Ho, illustrated by Teresa Martinez

(HarperCollins)- hardback

‘Petunia’ is the nickname of Yo-Yo Ma’s cello, with a ‘bow stick ‘from a tree grown only in Brazil’ and hair ‘from a horse’s tail in Mongolia‘ and ‘the ebony frog from a forest in West Africa‘. Meanwhile, the cellist was born in France to Chinese parents. However, he emigrated to the United States, where his musical prodigy was acclaimed world wide. However, Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma is both a biography and then a statement of global harmony.
Not only did this world famous cellist initiate the Silk Road Ensemble. Furthermore, he determined to play Bach’s Cello’s Suites on the banks of the Rio Grande. After all, this river separates ‘one nation‘ and ‘the shores of another’. Then again, these pieces were discovered in a Barcelona thrift shop nearly a century ago.
Through drawing our attention to the international story of the cellist, the instrument and the music, we are further aware of the intention. What’s more, we realise that the geographical divide of a river is a man-made construction. It seems we can imagine how unifying the sounds of the music would be too.
Joanna Ho and Teresa Martinez offer a sweeping, empathetic, almost musical interpretation of this 2018 projection Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma. Rather as in A Story Like the Wind, we see how music is a driver and healer, interpreter and unifier.


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