ARTIST: XUEFEI YANG

TITLE: 40 DEGREES NORTH

LABEL: EMI CLASSICS

RELEASE DATE: April 2008

By Barry Smiler

xue fei yang Xuefei Yang is a classical guitarist with a twist. Yes, she has a clear affinity for the Spanish classical repertoire, and this album includes well-executed performances of works by Isaac Albeniz, Francisco Tarega, and Enrique Granados. Very pleasant stuff, this.

But then there's that twist, and that's where things get interesting.

About a third of the selections here are solo classical guitar arrangements of music of her native China. Xuefei Yang is originally from Beijing, and moved to Britain to study only after rising to the highest levels of Chinese classical guitar circles. Her hybrid musical training gives her the properly solid background for the re-envisioning of the Chinese repertoire she does here and on her other recordings.

The Chinese selections range from folk tunes to Chinese opera, some arranged by Chinese and others by westerners. The lyrical qualities of the Chinese style are evident, with these textures well-combined with the familiar sounds and techniques of the classical guitar repertoire. It makes for an interesting combination.

All music is fusion music. Every musician takes inspiration from whatever personal influences resonate with that particular musician, and no two musicians will have the same influences. That's what keeps the pot boiling nicely, with fascinating musical meldings like 40 Degrees North.

Here are a couple of YouTube videos that might help provide a sense of what she brings to the table. First, here is one Xuefei Yang playing a solo guitar arrangement of Yi Dance, a traditional Chinese tune:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=GL_gEojksZE

Next, here are a couple of YouTube videos of the same tune played on pipa, the instrument you'd more typically hear this kind of tune played on:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6FJKcsb198

www.youtube.com/watch?v=wW0OKFlszlM

It's the same, but different. Check out the videos and that'll make more sense.

Anyway, Xuefei Yang's music is well worth a listen.


Barry Smiler is a former touring musician, retired concert producer, and all around great guy. In his doddering senescence he still retains a few opinions, and occasionally offers them in places like this.