Chinese Music Duets


Ancient Future


Matthew MontfortZhao Hui


Chinese Music Duets

Two duet offerings are available featuring entertaining, yet educational, programs showing both the traditional music of China and the many possibilities for integrating this ancient knowledge into contemporary culture.

One is a new improvisatory collaboration between Ancient Future leader Matthew Montfort and Chinese pipa master Shenshen Zhang, who began playing the pipa at the age of nine and entered the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing at the age of thirteen.

The other features Zhao Hui, who began her studies of the gu zheng (a Chinese zither that is the ancestor to the Japanese koto) at the age of six, and won first place in China's National Classical Instrumentalist Contest. She is joined by Matthew Montfort, who shows how the scalloped fretboard guitar is capable of performing traditional Chinese music due to its modifications allowing for advanced note ornamentation.

The programs include both Chinese classical music and contemporary compositions. Similar educational programs covering other world music traditions are available.

Venues: Festivals, Concert Series, Concert Halls, Clubs, Universities
Traditions: World Music, Asian Fusion, Chinese Classical
Moods: Ethereal, Exotic, Mystical, Ornate, Passionate, Uplifting, Yearning
Hashtags: #AsianFusion, #ChineseClassical, #WorldFusion


Matthew Montfort and Shenshen Zhang

This video captures the very first time that Chinese pipa master Shenshen Zhang and scalloped fretboard guitar pioneer Matthew Montfort played together. They met on August 21, 2011, at an acoustic guitar concert set up by steel string guitarist Mark Kostrzewa with Matthew Montfort on scalloped fretboard guitar and Richard Patterson on classical guitar at The Wine Bar in Half Moon Bay. Mark invited Shenshen Zhang to perform a number by herself. Matthew invited her to jam with him, and this is exactly what happened from their first note together! The unedited video was recorded by Mariah Parker from the audience.

Lobby Lounge Video Performance

Featuring Shenshen Zhang and Matthew Montfort

Based on the duet's magical spontaneous first performance captured above, the new Lobby Lounge series of the Marin Independent Journal was excited about doing a show focusing on this new collaboration between Ancient Future leader Matthew Montfort and Chinese pipa master Shenshen Zhang. So the duo had their very first rehearsal, and then the next day taped this Lobby Lounge video!

"We recently hosted our most exotic Lobby Lounge show to date. You don't often get to hear music by Chinese pipa and 11-string fretless guitar. But that's what we have in the duo of Shenshen Zhang, a concert soloist on the Chinese pipa, and Matthew Montfort, leader of the Marin world music band Ancient Future, playing the seldom-seen fretless guitar and scalloped fretboard guitar. The pipa, sometimes called a Chinese lute, is a pear-shaped, four-stringed instrument that has been played in China for some 2,000 years. Shenshen first picked up the ancient instrument when she was 9, playing music with her mother in her native Wenzhou. listed Montfort among the 100 greatest acoustic guitarists. He and Shenshen first played together during a 2011 round-robin guitar night in Half Moon Bay. They met when he invited her on stage to jam with him. Magic ensued. Their on-the-spot improvisation was spellbinding, a spell they cast once again in their mesmerizing Lobby Lounge performance." - Paul Liberatore, Lobby Lounge, Marin Independent Journal (read full article)



Chinese pipa virtuoso Shenshen ZhangShenshen Zhang began playing the pipa at the age of nine. At thirteen, she entered Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing where she earned a bachelor's degree in music, and later, a master's degree from Xiamen University. While she was engaged as the singular pipa soloist at the Xiamen Opera House from 1992–2005, she performed and toured extensively through­out Asia and the U.S. Since making her home in the San Francisco Bay Area, Ms. Zhang has continued to preserve the traditional pipa repertory of China while also exploring contemporary music of many cultures.

Zhao Hui was born in 1962 in Beijing, China, into a family of famous classical Chinese musicians. She began her studies of the gu zheng (a Chinese zither that is the ancestor to the Japanese koto) at the age of six. In 1982 she won first place in China's National Classical Instrumentalist Contest. She graduated from the highest music conservatory in China in 1985. Since then she served as the top gu zheng soloist for Beijing's China Opera and Dance Drama House and was sent by the Chinese government to perform in Japan, Singapore, West Germany and Paris. As a recording artist for Beijing Television Productions, she has made solo gu zheng recordings, including many of her own compositions. Her video recordings are still shown daily on television in Beijing.

Matthew MontfortMatthew Montfort is the leader of the world fusion music ensemble Ancient Future. An award-winning guitarist (Louis Armstrong Jazz Award, Colorado Outstanding Young Guitarist Award), he is a pioneer of the scalloped fretboard guitar (an instrument combining qualities of the South Indian vina and the steel string guitar). Montfort spent three months in intensive study with vina master K.S. Subramanian in order to fully apply the South Indian gamaka (note-bending) techniques to the guitar. He has studied with the master musicians of many world music traditions, including sarangi master Ram Narayan, sarod master Ali Akbar Khan, mridangam master Guruvayoor Dorai, and gamelan director K.R.T. Wasitodipuro, and recorded with legendary world music figures ranging from Bolivian panpipe master Gonzalo Vargas to tabla master Zakir Hussain. He has released two solo CDs: Seven Serenades for Scalloped Fretboard Guitar and Sympathetic Serenade, for which he is recognized as one of the world's 100 Greatest Acoustic Guitarists by , a curated "best of" site, along with such luminaries as Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke, Chet Atkins, John Fahey, Adrian Legg, Merle Travis, John Renbourn, Tommy Emmanuel, Doc Watson, Pierre Bensusan, Toni Rice, Alex De Grassi, Stefan Grossman, Artie Traum, Joni Mitchell, and Peppino D'Agostino. He has performed concerts worldwide, including at the Festival Internacional de la Guitarra on the golden coast of Spain near Barcelona and the Mumbai Festival at the Gateway of India in Bombay. He has performed live on national radio and TV shows including the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

Featured Sound Files

>YTmusic (Chinese Music Duets repertoire). Studio recordings of the repertoire played by this band variation of Ancient Future.

The Dusk Song of the Fisherman (Traditional. 5:59). iTunes. >YTmusic. Dating from the Ching dynasty (1644-1912), this piece describes the fishermen returning to the harbor at dusk, singing a happy song. FREE MP3 (excerpt) 647K. From Asian Fusion (Narada Equinox ND-63023) CD- $24.98 (out of print: collectable signed reconditioned copy): Add 1 to Cart. Buy 1 Now.

Bookenka (The Adventurer) (Doug McKeehan. 5:18). iTunes. >YTmusic. This contemporary jazz radio hit combines a Japanese mode with elements of jazz. From Asian Fusion (Narada Equinox ND-63023) CD- $24.98 (out of print: collectable signed reconditioned copy): Add 1 to Cart. Buy 1 Now.

Related Programs

Asian Fusion: This program features Ancient Future's Asian music masters with a monster rhythm section, and was selected by Putumayo Records as the featured ensemble for the CD release party for Asian Lounge.

Asian Jazz: Ancient Future’s Asian jazz program features performers such as Liu Qi-Chao, who has amazed the ears of jazz audiences around the world through his collaborations with Chinese American jazz pianist/composer Jon Jang and flautist James Newton.

Contact Info

Tel: 415-459-1892.

Booking: Additional booking information, or use the contact information above.
Catalog: Listen to the CDs and use the secure online shopping cart system to purchase music.
Concerts: Current list of shows online.
Guest Book: Subscribe to the Ancient Future e-mail newsletter. Contests for prizes such as concert tickets each issue.