The Great Race – Rumba Calabria by Qiu Xia He & André Thibault

Qiu Xia He (composer/pipa)

Born in Baoji Shaanxi, Republic of China, Qiu Xia He has had two distinguished careers in music:  one as a performer and teacher in China, and a subsequent one as a performer, composer, producer and teacher in Canada.

Qiu Xia began her professional performing career at age 13 as a member of the Baoji Song, Dance and Music Troupe, and at 19, she moved to Xian to attend the Xian Academy of Music — where she stayed on as a teacher after graduation. In 1989, Qiu Xia was chosen to perform with the Shaanxi Music and Dance Troupe, a special ensemble formed to tour Canada. While performing at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, she decided not to return home. It was there, surrounded by musicians from the West Coast and around the world, that the seeds of her extraordinary new musical vision were planted.

Since her arrival in Canada, Qiu Xia has launched a series of cross-cultural musical projects that have helped smash stereotypes about Chinese music and launch a vibrant multicultural music scene in Vancouver that thrives to this day. Starting in 1991, she toured the world with her own Juno-nominated ensemble, Silk Road Music, and with the Juno-nominated multicultural quartet Asza.

When Asza disbanded in 2001, Qiu Xia joined several former members in founding JouTou, another multicultural music ensemble, this time with a focus on French music from around the world. Ironically, it was with JouTou that Qiu Xia finally returned to China to perform for the first time as a Canadian — at the 50th Anniversary of the Guangzhou Business Association in 2006.

With Silk Road Music, Qiu Xia has toured Canada, the US, and France. She has also performed with the Vancouver and Victoria Symphonies, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra.

Her compositions include the soundtracks for the Leo-nominated films Tears of the Lotus and Darcy Island, and for the movie In Our Own Hand. She lives in Vancouver and is married to her Silk Road and Jou Tou band-mate André Thibault.


André Thibault (composer/guitar)

André Thibault is a musician’s musician, an artist who has always put mastery of his instruments and devotion to their cultural heritage ahead of pop music success. For over thirty years, he has been a stalwart member of the Canadian global music scene — as a solo artist specializing in French, Spanish and North African music; as a collaborator with other leading world musicians; as the founder and leader of the global French music ensemble JouTou; and as a member of two Juno Award-nominated world music projects: Asza and Silk Road Music.

Born in a working class neighbourhood of Montreal to a family with Acadian roots and musical ancestors, André initially did what all musical youth of his generation did: he listened to the Beatles and played in rock n’ roll bands. However, it was another performance on the Ed Sullivan Show that would ultimately prove more influential to him than that of the Fab Four:  the performance of the flamenco ensembles. Transfixed by their complex rhythms, Andre, who was until that point, a self-taught guitarist, began taking lessons from local players and dedicating himself to mastering the form — a commitment that continues to this day. Along the way, he found himself inspired by the Arabic components of flamenco, which, in turn, prompted him to take up the oud, world percussion, and an array of wind instruments.

Since 2005, André has been a regular member of the Juno-nominated Chinese-Western music ensemble Silk Road Music, founded by Qiu Xia He, his Asza and JouTou bandmate to whom he is now married. While JouTou and Silk Road began as independent bands of musicians, the duo of André and Qiu Xia now resides at the core of both — each helping realize the other’s musical vision. Qiu Xia provides the global twist to the French-themed JouTou while Andre provides much of the Western influence in the current incarnation of Silk Road.

Composers’ note: As a leading Canadian ensemble, Silk Road Music has always developed new expressions for intercultural music, featuring compositions that enhance the understanding of Chinese and world culture. Its musicians explore and extend the range of the ancient pipa with the guitar and percussion. The compositions evolve from Chinese folk traditions to Jazz harmony and Flamenco rhythms with an original take. – Qiu Xia He & André Thibault

About the Instruments

Pipa: A short-necked Chinese lute with a shallow, pear-shaped body, a wooden belly and, sometimes, two crescent-shaped sound holes. The modern pipa has 29 or 31 frets, 6 on the neck and the rest on the body of the instrument. The four strings run from a fastener on the belly to conical tuning pegs in the sides of the bent-back pegbox. Once made of silk, they are today usually made of nylon-wrapped steel. Silk strings were played either with a plectrum or with bare fingers, but steel strings are typically played with finger picks, short plectrums attached to the fingers.

Video Production Credits

Director of Photography – Kerry Phillips

Gaffer / B Camera – Yong Jin Kim

Audio Engineer & Mix – Sheldon Zaharko

All additional photography – Kerry Phillips

Filmed and recorded on July 27, 2020 at Pyatt Hall (VSO School of Music) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

For the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra:

Global Soundscapes Festival Producer – Mark Armanini

Senior Project Manager – Farshid Samandari

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