Video: Wu Man and shadow puppet band rock the house



The East Asia Program's Cornell Contemporary China Initiative brought the world-renowned pipa master Wu Man and the Huayin Shadow Puppet Folk Band to Barnes Hall on March 19.

Their raw, driving acoustical performance bridged any language or cultural barriers. The half-sung, half-shouted vocals were as soulful as the blues. Hand-made, delicately painted shadow puppets engaged a multi-generational audience with a tale of war and a tender love story, offering a welcome break from the usual screen time.

Wu Man compares the music to rock and roll for its exuberance and its accessibility. These sorts of parallels are central to her work over the years in China. As life on the mainland becomes more digital, and skilled artists in ancient traditions grow old and die, the music is endangered. She is determined to keep it alive.

Wu Man hopes her tours and performances will inspire the next generation to learn the ancient forms, so they are not only preserved but transformed.