— A long and distinguished career in China —
Performing with Central Song and Dance Ensemble
Ms. Yang Ying’s musical career was destined before she was born. Ying grew up during the Cultural Revolution, a time when her family was labeled a "black family" and repeatedly persecuted for their background. As the only path to improve her life condition, Ying’s father encouraged her to give up her dream of becoming a traditional Chinese medical doctor and sent her away to music college in Zhengzhou—the capital city of Henan county in central China.
After distinguishing herself as a soloist in college, Ying successfully auditioned for the Central Song and Dance Ensemble in Beijing, which is the premier traditional cultural troupe in China. From 1978-1996 Ying was the featured solo instrumentalist. As the featured soloist, Ying routinely traveled throughout Asia performing for Heads of State (including three American Presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter). In 1996, Ms. Yang Ying's accomplishments were recognized by her inclusion in the Chinese government's publication of Famous Persons of China.
Bored with the limited repertoire and touring life of the national troupe, in the late 1980s Ying founded Cobra—the first all-female rock band in China. Though today western music is ubiquitous in larger Chinese cities, at that time rock music was still largely unknown in China and "discouraged" by the powers that were. Ying founded this band at considerable risk to her position with the National Song and Dance Troupe and against all advice of family and friends. Rare footage of Cobra performing at a rock concert in Beijing (the largest concert to-date in China), shot for a German television/documentary crew, is availabe on youtube.
In 1996 Ying immigrated to America to further her musical ambition: to create music that, in her words, "combines the precision of classical music, creativity of jazz, and passion of rock with the soul of traditional Chinese music."
— Life is input; music is output —
Ying’s first CD in America—Elixir, Music for Moving and Still Meditation—came about as a request. A longtime practitioner of Chinese qigong meditation, Ying was asked to create music for use in a university research intervention on the benefits of tai chi and qigong for older adults. Though she did not intend to make a commercial CD, so many intervention participants requested the music that she decided to release it. As Ying likes to quote, "life is input, music is output." The Elixir CD is a product of her lifelong practice of qigong meditation and interest in music as a healing modality—the Chinese have always believed that music is a medicine, and in fact the Chinese character for music is the major part of the character for medicine!
In addition to meditation music, Ying composes world fusion—her CD Blurring Boundaries, Erhu Excursions is an eclectic mix of traditional Chinese, arrangements of jazz classics, and her own world fusion compositions. Live performance is Ying’s forte, and music critic John Ziegler wrote after a live performance of the music from this CD:
Yang Ying is a gentle giant, and you should know her name. . . She is a revolutionary who is methodically and melodically erasing barriers between countries, between cultures and between ways of thinking. Last night . . . Ying took an audience of music enthusiasts on a mind-bending ride that magically melded East and West, ancient and contemporary, and classical and rock ’n’ roll."
Ying and band at Arlington World Music Festival