While many instrumental albums take several spins to reveal their visual aesthetics, Suzanne Z. Shu‘s Love for Homeland only needs one. It must be the power of God. Through her Er-hu (a traditional Chinese two-string bowed instrument) and her love for Jesus Christ, she connects listeners with her music. Using her instrument as a melodic brush, she captures exquisite images with her sound, and God is in the details.
Love for Homeland is like a trip down memory lane for Miss. Shu, and she takes listeners on the journey with her. The album opens with a gorgeous landscape of “Spring in Southern China.” Composed by Chang Yao Zhu and accompanied by Yang Qin’ zither, Miss. Shu’s Er-hu leads us through “the incomparable beauty of Southern China’s river villages” (album notes). The voyage continues with sounds of nature on Lien Hua Liu’s “Birds Singing on the Mountain.” Her intricate fiddling style on this track is simply amazing. Her saws are fast and clear. I am stunned by the variety of sounds that come out of just two strings. The part where she scratches her Er-hu is like a DJ on a turntable, only the sound is much more distinctive and impossible to accomplish with a record.
Miss. Shu and her ensemble have not only created a joyful image on Hai Huai Huang’s “Horse Racing,” but they have also added a dazzling motion to the composition. All we have to do is imagining Ziyi Zhang riding a horse through the green grass plains, and let Miss. Shu’s Er-hu fill in the motion graphics with her wondrous harmonies of nature. In contrast to “Horse Racing” ‘s energetic vibe, “Childhood,” which composed by Shu when she was seventeen years old, is a calm and delightful reflection of her upbringing in China. In this particular piece, her Er-hu is a reminiscent of a human voice, a female vocalist with a sophisticated level phrasing and perfect breath control. The music is quiet, but the image is accessible.
Even though I have never met Miss. Shu, she has inspired me as someone who uses her God-sent talent to serve God. Instead of taking her masterful skill to fame and fortune, which she could easily achieve (Kanye West would be thrilled to sample her sounds), she uses it to praise the Lord. Her rendition of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” is both uplifting and astonishing. The Chinese instruments give this Western classic a unique harmony. Like the words of God, every sound that comes out of Miss. Shu Er-hu is soulful, graceful, and powerful.