Yang Ying

Yang Ying


"Yang Ying is a gentle giant . . . a revolutionary who is methodically and melodically erasing barriers between countries, between cultures and between ways of thinking . . . magically melding East and West, ancient and contemporary, and classical and rock ’n’ roll." -Duluth News Tribune


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 (Zhong Yang Ge Wu Tuan) 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 improviser 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 Beijing. Ying founded this band soon after Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989, at considerable risk to her position with the Chinese National Song and Dance Ensemble.

Current Music

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.

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.

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.



Blurring Boundaries - Erhu Excursions, 2005. Contemporary world fusion, traditional Chinese, & jazz covers with virtuostic erhu lead.

Elixir, Music for Moving and Still Meditation, 2003. Composed around "the five notes" (i.e., the pentatonic scale) and making use of both traditional Chinese instruments and modern synthesizers, Elixir is a mixture of traditional and contemporary Chinese music with beautiful melodies that may used as an accompaniment to your moving or still meditation practice or simply enjoyed for the beauty of the music.

Set List

Set lists and set lengths vary with venue. A typical show may include any or all of the music from her recent Blurring Boundaries: Erhu Excuersions CD:

1. Uninhibited (Yang Ying, 4:48)
2. Confiding in a Friend (Yang Ying, 7:29)
3. 'Round Midnight (Thelonius Monk, 6:31)
4. Horse Race (Traditional, 3:06)
5. River of Tears (Traditional, 7:03)
6. Funky Chinese Jig (Yang Ying, 4:20)
7. Autumn Moon over the Han Palace (Traditional, 6:46)
8. Sanmen Gorge Capriccio (Traditional, 9:50)

Other shows/venues may include significantly improvised jazz covers, such as Charlie Parker's "Diverse," or feature Ying singing traditional Chinese ballads such as "Kang Ding Love Song" in her own bluesy rock vocal style. Ying also likes to perform word-fusion arrangements of rock classics (e.g. Led Zeppelin medely, Voodoo Child, Moondance.)