Arts, Culture & Media

This Chinese-American trio describes their music as 'Kung fu Appalachian indie rock folk'

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Credit:

Luke Mines

From left to right: Abigail Washburn, Kai Welch and Wu Fei

The United States and China are both global powers. Sometimes, the back-and-forth between the two takes place at the highest diplomatic levels. And sometimes, it happens informally, when musicians get together to see what happens.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

Wu Force is a Chinese-American collaboration between three singer-instrumentalists. The group performed at Global Fest in New York earlier this year. They describe the fruits of their work together as "Kung fu Appalachian indie rock folk music," with some performance art thrown in between China and the US.

The three members are Kai Welch on guitar and trumpet, Abigail Washburn on banjo and various other instruments, and Wu Fei, who plays the guzheng (a Chinese zither.)

Wu Fei says all of the band members have experience in both the US and China.

"Kai has been traveling a lot since he was really young, and Abby spent lots of years in China and so she speaks Mandarin and knows a lot about Chinese folk music and culture … And I lived in the States for over 10 years," says Fei.

Wu Force began when Fei moved back to Beijing. The trio started playing together in her apartment.

"You know, when I first got to China, I thought the whole place was hilarious, in the best possible way — like the way people are yelling at each other in the streets … or the way old people are hawking gargantuan loogies on the sidewalk," Fei says.

"I was experiencing some reverse cultural shock. I thought I was so Chinese until I moved back to China — I just couldn't fit in, I felt so confused," Fei says. "And, of course, every creativity is about what you are experiencing at the moment."

The members of Wu Force may have experienced jolts of cultural confusion. But they're harnessing those feelings and making the most of the opportunity.

For now, the band's experimenting. But the trio says the first Wu Force album is on the way.

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