A student of her father, Ms. Yang Ying† began the study of the erhu at the age of five. By thirteen, she was performing solo concerts, and by nineteen she had graduated from the Opera University of Henan, China and had begun performing for the Central Song and Dance Ensemble () in Beijing. At the age of twenty-five, Yang Ying won first place in a national erhu competition, clearly distinguishing herself as one of the foremost erhu players in China.
The Central Song & Dance Ensemble is the premier traditional musical and dance troupe in China, and from 1978-1996 Ms. Yang Ying was the featured solo instrumentalist. As the featured soloist, Yang Ying routinely traveled throughout Asia performing for Heads of State (including three American Presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter). During her tenure, she also frequently recorded for the film and record industry in China. In 1996, Ms. Yang Ying's accomplishments were recognized by her inclusion in the Chinese government's publication of Famous Persons of China.
Improvisation is an important aspect of traditional Chinese music, and Ying is gifted improvisor who enjoys joining in improvisational sessions of any style of music. She is also interested in a fusion of Western and Eastern music. Ms. Yang Ying was the founder, bass player, and singer for Cobra, the first all female rock band in China. Cobra had achieved international recognition, and was one of seven bands to play at the largest rock concert ever held in China. Ying founded this band in 1989, at considerable risk to her position with the Chinese National Song and Dance Ensemble.
Click here to view photos of the China years, or here to view historic footage of Cobra and early rock in China.
Reflective of her background as a traditionally trained Chinese musician and her immersion in all forms of Western music since her arrival in America in the late 1990s, Ying’s most recent CD BLURRING BOUNDARIES/ERHU EXCURSIONS combines her arrangements of traditional signature pieces for the erhu, a cover of a classic American jazz tune (Thelonius Monk's 'Round Midnight), and her own compositions that are a fusion of various styles of Chinese music with western classical, jazz, funk, rock, and Nashville influences. If you’re looking for music constrained in style and presentation and therefore easily categorizable, this CD probably isn’t for you. The traditional pieces inform Western audiences of the flavor of Chinese music, and jazz lovers everywhere will appreciate the beautiful and soulful lead of the erhu on ‘Round Midnight. Ying’s own music, a fusion of Asian and Western influences, may be described as a soulful cross between an Asian version of Itzhak Perlman (virtuostic stringed play) and Jean Luc Ponty (jazz and rock influenced innovative compositions for stringed instrument lead), and Bela Fleck (innovative funk and jazz fusion with traditional (bluegrass) music). As a former bass player Ying likes to bring the bass out front, also somewhat similar in style to Bela Fleck. Her improvised compositions, owing perhaps to her familiarity with various Chinese ethnic music styles, sometimes naturally flow in time signatures other than the standard 4/4 time which dominates Western pop music. Samples of the her music, as well as detailed liner notes providing background for each song, are available at the music store.
One of Ying’s most outstanding talents is live performance. Ying is a seasoned virtuoso with a commanding stage presence. Ying’s music and performances appeal to audiences across cultures and generations, and she has recently performed in venues as varied as Chicago nightclubs with younger audiences to concert halls with a decidedly more “mature” audience. Testimonials from select recent performances are available at the news link.
Ying is also a longtime practitioner of qigong, which are relaxing, meditative exercises that date to the middle of the first millennium BC in China. Her first CD produced in America, ELIXIR - MUSIC FOR MOVING AND STILL MEDITATION , contains all original compositions of relaxing, meditation music with beautiful erhu melodies. Please visit the music store to purchase or listen to .mp3 clips of the music.
† The "a" in Yang is pronounced as in "father" or "tall". In keeping with Chinese custom, Ying lists her family name first (Yang), followed by her given name (Ying). Please call her Ying. ☺