Folk music artist Cathy Fink, along with bandmates Marcy Marxer and Barbara Lamb, embarked on a multi-country tour with American Music Abroad in hopes of sharing their Appalachian style of music with foreign audiences.
“The cultural exchanges have introduced us to some fabulous musicians and new styles of music that we are anxious to continue learning about,” says Cathy.
The band will be performing concerts and workshops in China, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, oftentimes alongside local artists performing in their native tradition. Most performances range from formal productions to some informal shows at local schools and private workshops for musicians interested in the American roots style. The band’s focus on traditional folk music and a variety of children's and family music is often unfamiliar to many outside of the U.S.
“Many have never seen a banjo before,” says Cathy. “Few have heard the Appalachian, old time string-band music, but all have loved the percussive washboard, yodeling and Marcy's cowgirl lariat rope trick. At home, we are not introducing this music to new audience as much as presenting a show of our latest musical tastes and songs. While on tour in other countries, we take more time to talk about where the songs come from, the different musical styles, and the contexts of the music.”
The three band members had to adjust to new experiences themselves while abroad. The ensemble noted that the most difficult challenges have to do with performing while jetlagged and in some cases, performing in freezing concert halls.
“The Chinese are used to [the cold] and their amazing group, Beauty & Melody, was poised and flawless while we were shivering on stage,” says Cathy.
Cathy, Marcy, and Barbara assert that the program has been a successful exchange of cultural and musical talents; and it has been life changing to use their skills to convey a range of emotions and musical styles to international audiences.
“It's both a joy and a responsibility to represent the American Roots Music styles,” says Cathy. “But what we love the most is using music as a way to extend a hand in friendship and peace.”