Railroad Roots: Stories and Songs

image via TED

November 13, 2023
6:00pm to 7:30pm

Union Station

**This is the second event in a two-evening opportunity to engage with the Silkroad Ensemble. Our first event takes place at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts in Northridge on Sunday, November 12. Learn more.

Join us for Part 2 of our two-event opportunity on November 13 for an evening of music and discussion about the American Railroad, the communities of workers who built it, and the people who were displaced by it. Multiple GRAMMY winner Rhiannon Giddens will be joined by members of the Silkroad Ensemble to perform a handful of songs and lead a discussion about the history of the railroad and its music with scholars and community members. Joining Silkroad for the conversational portion of the event is bestselling author Lisa See (On Gold Mountain, Island of Sea Women), whose great-great-grandfather worked on the Railroad in the mid-1800s.

The Pacific Council on International Policy shares a vision of global engagement and internationalism that resonates deeply with the goals of Silkroad's American Railroad. This partnership underscores the idea that local actions and policies have a profound impact on the global stage, and vice versa. It reminds us that Los Angeles is not just a city on the Pacific coast; it is a gateway to the world, a place where cultures converge, ideas flourish, and global perspectives are embraced.

This event is presented in partnership with Metro Art Los Angeles, the Pacific Council on International Policy, and The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts.


Guest Speakers:

Rhiannon Giddens

Lisa See

Guest Performers:

Haruka Fujii

Wu Man

Pura Fe


Rhiannon Giddens, GRAMMY Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning singer and instrumentalist

Rhiannon Giddens has made a singular, iconic career out of stretching her brand of folk music, with its miles-deep historical roots and contemporary sensibilities, into just about every field imaginable. A two-time GRAMMY Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning singer and instrumentalist, MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient, and composer of opera, ballet, and film, Giddens has centered her work around the mission of lifting up people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been overlooked or erased, and advocating for a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins through art.

As Pitchfork once said, “few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration”—a journey that has led to NPR naming her one of its 25 Most Influential Women Musicians of the 21st Century and to American Songwriter calling her “one of the most important musical minds currently walking the planet.”

Lisa See, American writer and novelist

Lisa See is an accomplished American writer and novelist, renowned for her profound literary contributions, which include the celebrated book 'On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family' and a series of bestselling novels such as 'The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane,' 'The Island of Sea Women,' and 'Lady Tan’s Circle of Women.' Her paternal great-grandfather, Fong See, was of Chinese descent, influencing both her life and her literary work, which has often revolved around the rich tapestry of Chinese-American history. Lisa's debut work, 'On Gold Mountain,' was a national bestseller and a New York Times Notable Book, chronicling her great-grandfather's remarkable journey from overcoming adversity to becoming the 100-year-old patriarch of Los Angeles's Chinatown. With her deep connection to Chinese heritage and contributions to cultural events emphasizing the importance of Los Angeles and Chinatown, Lisa See is an exceptional author with a unique perspective on American history and cultural diversity. To learn more visit www.lisasee.com.

Pura Fé, Artist and Activist 

Artist and activist, Pura Fé, has studied and performed with The American Ballet Theatre Company and been in several Broadway musicals and TV commercials. She is a founding member of the internationally renowned native woman’s capella trio, Ulali, and is recognized for creating a new genre, bringing Native contemporary music to the forefront of the mainstream music industry.

Haruka Fujii, Percussionist 

Multi-percussionist Haruka Fujii has won international acclaim for her interpretation of contemporary music and commissioned and performed numerous premiere works from luminary living composers. Ms. Fujii has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras including San Francisco Symphony, the Munich Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Nationale de Lyon and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. She also performs as a member of San Francisco Contemporary Players, the New York based Line C3 Percussion Group, and Utari Percussion Duo - a project with her sister Rika Fujii.

Wu Man, Soloist, Educator, and Composer 

Recognized as the world’s premier pipa virtuoso, Wu Man is a soloist, educator, and composer who gives her lute-like instrument—which has a history of more than 2,000 years in China—a new role in both traditional and contemporary music. She has premiered hundreds of new works for the pipa, while spearheading multimedia projects to both preserve and create global awareness of China’s ancient musical traditions.


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