The Silk Road Ensemble, which at the 59th Grammy Awards February 12 won “Best World Music Album” for its recording Sing Me Home, includes a Dartmouth graduate with close ties to the college and the Hop.
Kojiro Umezaki–a composer and renowned virtuoso of the Japanese shakuhachi flute who holds a 1993 master’s degree in electro-acoustic music from Dartmouth’s music department–is a founding member of the ensemble. A frequent visitor to the Music Department since his graduation, Umezaki was introduced to cellist Yo-Yo Ma by Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music Ted Levin, who in 1998 had founded with Ma the Silk Road Project. Umezaki became one of the stellar musicians from Middle Eastern and Asian traditions to found the project’s performing group, the Silk Road Ensemble.
Umezaki has continued to keep in touch with his alma mater, especially during the Silk Road Ensemble residencies and performances at the college over the past quarter-century. In 2009, Dartmouth commissioned a work from him premiered by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider. His most recent visit was the ensemble’s January residency at the Hop in connection with Layla and Majnun, with the Mark Morris Dance Group. The residency included a workshop for Windsor, Vt., student musicians and dancers.
As a composer and performer, Umezaki’s work encompasses traditional and technology-based music mediated by various forms of electronics. His recent commissioned works and producer credits include those for Brooklyn Rider, Joseph Gramley, Huun Huur Tu and the Silk Road Ensemble. Umezaki is an associate professor of music at the University of California, Irvine, where he is core faculty member of the Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology (ICIT). Since 2012, he has been involved with Turnaround Arts, a White House initiative under the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
Along with Sing Me Home, his notable recordings include Brooklyn Rider’s Dominant Curve (In A Circle, 2010); The Silk Road Ensemble’s Beyond the Horizon (Sony BMG, 2005), New Impossibilities (Sony BMG, 2007), Off the Map (World Village, 2009–Grammy Award nominee), and A Playlist Without Borders (Sony Masterworks, 2013); Yo-Yo Ma’s Appassionato (Sony BMG, 2007) and Songs of Joy and Peace (Sony BMG, 2008–Grammy Award winner); Huun-Huur Tu’s Ancestors Call (World Village, 2010); Beat in Fractions’ Beat Infraction (Healthy Boys, 2007); and The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan (Smithsonian Folkways, 2002). His most recent album of mostly original works is (Cycles) (In A Circle, 2014).
Also part of the Grammy-winning team was tabla master Sandeep Das, who last winter at Dartmouth co-taught with Levin the course “Music and Dance of North India.” (For more about that course, go here.)