Yo-Yo Ma Sends Message Of Unity By Playing Cello On Both Sides Of US-Mexico Border
World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is most known for his musical talents. The 63-year-old Ma recently brought his cello skills to the U.S.-Mexico border to make a statement about global unity. The musical performance was a part of an event – called Day of Action, celebrating the relationship between Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. For Ma, the performance went beyond just music but a call to action urging people to “build bridges, not walls.”
The performance is part of Ma’s Bach Project, where he performs music by Sebastian Bach in various locations around the world.
Ma played Bach’s Suite No. 1 in a park across to the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge, one of the bridges that connects both U.S. and Mexican cities. The bridges are significant not just for where they’re located but their role in U.S-Mexico relations.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, 37 percent of the $612 billion in exports and imports between the U.S. and Mexico last year came through Laredo’s three international bridges. The bridges are also one of many ports of entries along the border where asylum-seekers and other immigrants can go to request entry in the U.S.
“As you all know, as you did and do and will do, in culture, we build bridges, not walls,” Ma said in a speech at his performance. “I’ve lived my life at the borders. Between cultures. Between disciplines. Between musics. Between generations.”
When performing on the Mexico side, Ma played the same songs and gave a similar speech on that end. Despite having a translator for him, Ma tried his best to speak Spanish to the crowd.
Many at the performance couldn’t help but feel inspired my Ma’s work.
Mateo Bailey, 16, who lives in San Antonio, also plays the cello and is the son of Grammy award-winning cellist Zuill Bailey. He told NPR News that Ma’s message connected to him because of his Mexican-American background.
“I’m half-Mexican as well as half-American,” Bailey told NPR. “For him to connect cello with what’s happening in the world is like, it’s a cultural bridge that was just built, and it’s amazing.”
For Ma, the performance is a reflection of what he wants to see in this world during divided times. Music is universal to so many people and is a way various different cultures unite as one.
“We live in a world of boundless possibility, but we also face daunting challenges, even to our very survival,” Ma says about his Bach Project. “I believe that during times of stress, confusion, and insecurity, we should share sources that offer comfort, purpose, and meaning. Bach does that. When his music touches us, it reconnects us to our common humanity.”