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Chinese artist Wu Fei sings and plays the guzheng, a traditional zither, in the trio. (Ebru Yildiz for NPR)

The Wu-Force: globalFEST 2014

Jan 16, 2014

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Banjo master Abigail Washburn, part of an Appalachian-Chinese mash-up called The Wu Force, performs at New York City's Webster Hall as a part of globalFEST on Jan. 12, 2014. American multi-instrumentalist Kai Welch rounds out The Wu Force. Banjo master Abigail Washburn, part of an Appalachian-Chinese mash-up called The Wu Force, performs at New York City's Webster Hall as a part of globalFEST on Jan. 12, 2014.

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If you've encountered banjo phenomenon Abigail Washburn before, you might know that she's loved China for a long time. In fact, it was her plan to study law at Beijing University that led her to her chosen instrument a little more than a decade ago: She'd wanted to bring "something American" with her to China and started to learn old-time music — and found her destiny.

She never gave up her love of Chinese music and culture; at the Tiny Desk Concert she recorded for NPR Music back in 2011, she and her band performed a song she'd learned in Sichuan Province. In a newly formed trio called The Wu Force with multi-instrumentalist Kai Welch and guzheng (plucked zither) artist Wu Fei — a group self-described as a "Kungfu-Appalachian-Indie-Folk-Rock trio" — the three create new music inspired by everything from Peking opera to American punk. Their sound and staging are a little loopy, but The Wu-Force's interplay of fearless instrumentation, delicate playing and intriguing storytelling makes for a memorable set.

Set List

  • "Muckrakers"
  • "Uyghur Gaga"
  • "Cindy's Little Hand"
  • "Swallow Bridge"
  • "Good Girl"
  • "Han Ren"
  • "Piao"
  • "Yali Da"
  • "Wu-Force Anthem"
  • "Superpower Showdown"
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