Atlanta ensemble combines Chinese music with western sounds

Yao Lu, who owns the Magic Eastern Music Studio and leads its performing ensemble, talks about the beauty of sharing her culture through music.

Atlanta — In Atlanta, there are places where musicians can learn to play the bamboo flute, guzheng, and even the erhu.

In the West, these instruments are known respectively as the flute, the 21-string Chinese plucked string instrument, and the Chinese violin.

Yao Lu, who owns the Magic Eastern Music Studio and leads its performing ensemble, talks about the beauty of sharing her culture through music.

“So we’re trying to[diversify]it,” says Lu.

Together with other musicians and students, Lu learned how to perform traditional Chinese and East Asian songs with a creative edge.

“We play traditional instruments, but we don’t want to be too traditional,” she said.

A master of the bamboo flute and 21-string koto, she does this by adding Western influences, including jazz and pop influences, and electronic elements that blend with old East Asian sounds. It is to help expand and connect with the vast Asian audience that exists in Georgia.

Cindy Huang, musician of the Loose Magic Eastern Ensemble, said, “I think there’s a growing Asian community in the Atlanta metro area.

Having lived in Georgia for 10 years, Fang started his studio at a young age. The ensemble he founded in 2018 and the studio started a few years ago. Both musicians said the studio is getting renewed attention as Georgia’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community continues to grow its presence.

Fang said the ensemble stands out because the new organization helps bring communities together in culture and education.

“We are rebranding this kind of old traditional music and inviting other communities and other peoples to listen to our music,” she said.

Fang plays the Shaoqin Erhu. This instrument resembles a traditional Chinese instrument known as his two-stringed violin with electronics. Fang is believed to be the only shoqin erhu player in Georgia.

She says the instruments help broaden the ensemble’s sound and attract new listeners.

“We are trying to[bridge]this kind of Asian AAPI community with a wider audience,” said Fang. “You can use instruments to further diversify (add) musical elements.”

They’ve worked to get their music in front of more people, resulting in a fully booked Chinese New Year.

“I think she packs a lot into every performance,” Fang said of Lu.

The 15-day celebration begins on January 22nd, when family rings in the Year of the Rabbit. Even before the celebrations officially began, Lu has been visiting schools and colleges on behalf of her non-profit organization, as well as performing with ensembles ready to play at festivals across Georgia.

Related: Lunar New Year Festival at Johns Creek

“For me, celebrating is my job, which is playing an instrument,” Lu said of Lunar New Year.

Besides appearing in the Lunar New Year show, Lu joked.She also enjoys eating holiday food.

And the music doesn’t stop when the holidays are over.

Later this year they will play a concert at the Aurora Theater in June and a gala in December.

They said being busy isn’t a bad thing. It’s all part of bringing a cultural community together and giving people new music to appreciate.

“This is my favorite thing in life,” Lou said. “I just play an instrument.”

Lu is currently working on a new website that will be released soon. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the ensemble and studio, please visit Magic Eastern Music Studio on Facebook. Anyone who wants to learn can participate.

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