Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn (Smithsonian Folkways), the debut duo album from the guzheng master and GRAMMY-winning banjoist, produced by 16-time GRAMMY winner Béla Fleck, was released on April 3, 2020. An elegant, innovative blend of old-time music and folk sounds from Chinese and Appalachian traditions, the intermingling of languages, dialects, and soaring, sparkling strings on the record is a celebration of music’s ability to unite distant cultures - right now, an accomplishment “deserving of mainstream recognition” (The Guardian).
Born of a friendship begun thirteen years ago, Wu Fei & Abigail Washburn is the first formal release from the two musicians, recorded after years of inter-genre experimentation and occasional live shows. An homage to the oral traditions of American folk music and the structured musicality of Chinese court music, the album also intentionally subverts its styles (banjo playing traditionally Chinese sounds vs. Southern white "folk," etc.) to call attention to their often misattributed origins, and pay respect to their true originators. For example, the non-traditional and non-“Western” playing of banjo on the album serves as a reminder of banjo’s true origins - an African instrument brought over with the slave trade, not created in white Appalachia -, and many of the Chinese songs chosen for the record ("Wusuli Boat Song," “Avarguli,” etc) were intentionally chosen as tributes to the rarely-credited Chinese minority groups that first wrote and sang them.