Born in 1970 in the Chinese province of Jiangsu, WU WEI is considered to be the world’s leading avant-garde sheng (Chinese mouth-organ) soloist. After studying sheng – a 4000-year old Chinese folk instrument – at the renowned music conservatory of Shanghai as a Master’s student and working in the traditional Chinese musical Orchestra of Shanghai as a soloist, he was awarded a DAAD scholarship in 1995 to study in Berlin at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music. He has lived in Berlin ever since.
Besides winning many prestigious national and international competitions for traditional Chinese music, he won the first prize in the German music competition “Musica Vitale” in 1996 and 2002. In 2004, he won the German folk prize “Global Root” for extraordinary achievement on the German music scene as an international musician.
Wu Wei is world-renowned for his abilities in the realms of modern and improvised music, jazz-influenced music, new music, minimalist music, and numerous other styles, which he performs on his modern discant sheng of 37 pipes. He has also found hidden sounds on the instrument and creates new sound-worlds for the new music style, but in his own musical expressions and sound-colors. He uses the tableau of classical Chinese music and enhances it with contemporary structures and musical ideas. He creates new musical dimensions for traditional Chinese instrumental music.
Wu Wei’s background is Chinese classical music, combined with an extraordinary musical creativity and vitality. He was chosen to join the project “November Land: Music and Literature,” led by the famous German writer Günter Grass, and has enjoyed collaborating with artists in contemporary opera, contemporary dance, musical theater, and painting. Wu Wei draws inspiration from a wide range of collaborators, enjoying the dynamics of his interactions. He is the first musician to bring the 37-pipe sheng to the international stage.
Since 1993, Wu Wei has appeared as sheng soloist with different ensembles and orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic under Kent Nagano, the Albany Symphony Orchestra under David Alan Miller, the Symfonieorkest Valaanderen (Belgium) under Jonas Alber, the Munich Symphony, the Luebecker Philharmonic, the Taipei Philharmonic, the Westfalen New Philharmonic under Samuel Bachli, the Pannonische Philharmonic Orchestra (Austria), the Metropole Orchestra Holland (the first concerto for sheng and jazz orchestra), and the Brandenburg Symphony Orchestra.
Wu Wei has played with Ensemble Modern, the Atlas Ensemble of Holland, Ensemble Musica Viva of Dresden, the Luxembourg Sinfonietta, the Cross Sound Sinfonietta (U.S.), and Orchestra Utopica (Portugal), among others.
Wu Wei has played in countless concerts, recitals, and in many important international venues and festivals, including the San Francisco Art Festival, the Berliner Festspielen, Münchener Bienale, Donaueschingen Musik Tage, Musica Viva Munich, the Holland Festival, Festival les Musiques Marseille, and Dresdner Tage der Zeitgenoessischen Musik.
He has played in more than 120 world premieres of contemporary compositions, from composers ranging from John Cage and Toshio Hosokawa to Enjott Schneider, Joerg Widmann to Tan Dun and Guo Wenjing, and Guus Janssen to Ruo Huang.
As a composer for the sheng, Wei has been commissioned by the Foundation Royaument of France, the German Saechsischen Culture Foundation, Munich’s Musica Viva, Chicago’s Slought Foundation, Paris’ Theatre Malakoff, and Hamburg’s Hansa Culture Foundation. He has been an artist-in-residence with the Villa Esche of Chemnitz Mozart Society and Montbeliard Theater France.
Wei’s newest project is the 2009/10 premiere performances of Unsuk Chin’s Concerto for Sheng and Orchestra, which he is performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Gustavo Dudamel in Walt Disney Concert Hall, with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in Suntory Hall, with the Seoul Philharmonic in Essen and Seoul, and with the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra Holland in the Musiekgebouw Amsterdam.
Wu Wei’s music has been released on numerous CDs and DVDs. Radio and TV stations have also introduced Wu Wei’s art to a wide range of audiences.