Yo-Yo Ma: The Clash of Cultures Bringing us Together

Yo-Yo Ma - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2008

Renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a good example of someone who has used their talents to cross cultures and strengthen bonds between different people.

Ma was born to Chinese parents in Paris, France who later moved to New York, U.S.A. when he was 7 years old. Having already begun playing the cello before moving to New York, Ma was featured on several U.S. television programs after the family moved and studied at Juilliard, eventually graduating from Harvard University.

Yo-Yo Ma in 2018 (Photo by Joi Ito)
Yo-Yo Ma in 2018 (Photo By Joi ItoCC BY 2.0)

Many composers have commissioned him to play their pieces and he has won many awards, including 15 Grammy’s. Ma grew up in different cultures, all of which have influenced his music. Mixing different instruments from Eastern and Western cultures was a big part of his practice as well.


Ma believes in the clash of cultures and how culture affects our society, music and even strengthens bonds. Coming from an immigrant family, he encourages people to think differently.

Culture leads to a foundation of a better world, and music has been one way he has already brought many people together.


The Bach Project is one of the biggest projects Ma has worked on. This required him to play Johann Sebastian Bach’s cello solos in locations all around the world. It’s a good example of how music can bring people together.

People from all over the world get a chance to enjoy his music. In return, he gets to visit these countries and learn more for himself. His goal is to connect people, and has even used his talents to spark awareness of certain issues. For example, Ma wants to spread awareness of climate change and how to save our oceans.

It’s amazing to see Yo-Yo Ma use his cultural background to bring people together and to unite us as well.

10/6/1987 President Reagan Nancy Reagan Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko listen to Yo-Yo Ma perform in the Yellow Oval Room during a private dinner for Crown Prince Akihito of Japan (White House Photographic Collection)
U.S. President Ronald Reagan, First Lady Nancy Reagan, Japanese Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko listen to Yo-Yo Ma perform in the Yellow Oval Room during a private dinner (White House Photographic Collection)
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