Mei Han is a groundbreaking virtuoso propelling the Chinese zheng into radical new dimensions of musical expression. Presenting music deeply rooted in over two thousand years of Chinese culture, Han is transforming this stately instrument into a powerful tool for the contemporary international concert stage. She is a consummate performer, appearing with leading artists around the world in a multitude of musical genres from symphonic and New Music to traditional and World music, or from Creative Improvisation to electronic.
Han studied with China's top zheng masters Zhang Yan and Gao Zicheng, and performed as a featured soloist for over ten years with the prestigious Beijing Zhan You Ensemble, the premiere ensemble of its type in China. Han went on to become a rare blend of performer and scholar with two Master's degrees in ethnomusicology, from the Musical Research Institute of the Chinese Arts Academy in Beijing (1995), considered internationally the most prestigious institute for Chinese music studies, and from the University of British Columbia (2000). Han wrote the zheng entry for the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the premiere music reference book, and has published articles in numerous music journals in both English and Chinese. Han has lectured on Chinese music in many universities and music institutes around the world.
A dynamic performer and innovator, Han has been exploring new directions for solo zheng and unique combinations of zheng with other instruments in a contemporary experimental aesthetic. Han premiered the world's first original zheng concerto (composed for Han by Dr. John Sharpley) with the China Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing, 2003; and a challenging new work for solo zheng by Lee Pui-Ming, commissioned for Han by the Vancouver New Music Festival, Vancouver 2002. A commanding virtuoso, Han's career spans Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North America, regularly performing works given to her by Minoru Miki, Yuji Takahashi, and Barry Truax amongst others.
Han's collaboration with composer and multi-instrumentalist Randy Raine-Reusch resulted in their CD Distant Wind (ZA Discs), featuring the first works for zheng duet, which reached #1 on the Canadian College Radio Charts, and was nominated for a Juno Award (Best Global). Together they have toured to prestigious venues in Australia (WOMAD), China, Czech Republic, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore (WOMAD), and South Africa.
Han performs with the Orchid Ensemble, performing both traditional Chinese music and contemporary scores by Canadian and Chinese composers; and the Crossing Border Ensemble, which explores European and Asian instruments in a contemporary jazz aesthetic. As an accomplished improvisational artist Han has performed at major international jazz festivals and experimental live interactive global web concerts with Frank Gratkowski, Paul Plimley, Ellery Eskelin, Robin Fox, Anthony Pateras, Mia Zabelka, Le Quan Ninh, Akikasu Nakamura, and Jason Robinson.
With passion and vigor, Han's stunning presentations of contemporary music constantly challenge the conservatism of Chinese music, and redefine the zheng as a powerful vehicle of innovation.