Guo Yue (musician)

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Guo Yue (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: 郭躍; pinyin: Guō Yuè; born 1958) is a virtuoso of the dizi (Chinese bamboo flute) and bawu (Chinese free reed pipe).[1] He was born in Beijing, China and as a young boy experienced the Cultural Revolution. In 1982 Yue left China and, with the help of his third sister Yan who was living in England, he studied the silver flute at the Guildhall School of Music. He plays many kinds of the bamboo flute and currently lives in London, recording for Peter Gabriel's Real World label. His other great love is cooking, and he often combines cookery with flute playing at his concerts.[2]


Yue was born in Beijing, China, the youngest of 6 children, in 1958, the year of Mao's Great Leap Forward. His family lived in a traditional courtyard in the maze of old alleys known as the Hutongs, between the beautiful Drum and Bell Towers and the river where he played as a child. His courtyard housed the families of five traditional musicians, mostly from the countryside. From these musicians who (unlike his father) had received no formal musical training, he learned how to put not just his breath but his whole body into playing the flute.[3]


Since relocating to England, Yue has composed, arranged, performed and recorded traditional Chinese music. In 1990 with his brother Guo Yi (郭艺), who plays the sheng (a bamboo mouth organ), they made a Real World album called 'Yuan', which also features the voice of his second sister Xuan. As the Guo Brothers, they performed at international festivals and concerts, including WOMAD (World of Music, Arts and Dance) Festivals worldwide. Since 1990 Yue worked as a soloist, writing his own music, and from 2003 he has worked in "Shan Qi" with Giovanni Amighetti, Helge A. Norbakken, Guido Ponzini, Wu Fei, and Gjermund Silset.

Yue has not confined himself to traditional Chinese music, and has worked with Peter Gabriel, Sinéad O'Connor and Hothouse Flowers. He has also collaborated with musicians and composers from Africa, Italy and Japan. In 1992 he made the album Trisan (Real World) with the Japanese taiko drummer Joji Hirota, and the Irish singer/composer Pol Brennan; this won an American instrumental award. Then in 1995 Yue and Joji recorded the album 'Red Ribbon'. In 1999 Yue performed his bamboo flutes concerto 'My Peking Alley' with the BBC Concert Orchestra at the WOMAD Festival in Reading. [1]

Film and theatre work[edit]

Guo has also worked on the soundtracks of several international films, including Bernardo Bertolucci's Oscar-winning The Last Emperor and The Killing Fields.[4] He also played the soundtrack theme, composed by George Fenton, for the Emmy award-winning Channel Four television documentary Beyond the Clouds which was directed by Phil Agland who commented: 'In the magical hands of Guo Yue, the bawu flute creates sounds that haunt the soul'.

In 2009 Horse and Bamboo Theatre and Barefoot Books collaborated with Guo and his wife, Clare Farrow, on a theatre production based on Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing, the story of his childhood; this show toured the UK.


Guo is also a specialist in authentic Chinese cooking, and gives cookery workshops in cookery schools and food festivals worldwide, often combined with music. 'Music, Food and Art' is held in Beijing, and groups of 8 to 10 students travel with him to stay in the hutongs where he grew up, visiting local markets and learning food preparation and cookery techniques, and the relationship of food to health, culture and music.


"There was a saying in my childhood that you could always tell when it was six o'clock in the evening, because at that moment the entire city would begin to vibrate with the force of everybody's chopping. And in the courtyards you could always tell what your neighbours were preparing, simply by listening to the speed and rhythm of their chopping."

Yue has written 'Music, Food and Love' with Clare Farrow, which was published in 2006. It tells the story of the Chinese Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a musical child. Yue had very little schooling, but an instinctive love of music, nature and cooking enabled him to find a means of self-expression at a time when freedom and individuality were suppressed by the policies of Mao Zedong.

Yue recounts his childhood before and during the Revolution. In sensual detail he evokes the colours, smells, tastes and sounds of a world that no longer exists. Among the most moving passages are those written about his mother, from whom he was separated during the Revolution.[5]

His newest book is entitled Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing (Barefoot Books).


  • Yuan (Real World)
  • Trisan (Real World)
  • Red Ribbon (Riverboat Records)
  • 2006 - Music, Food and Love (Real World)
Contributing artist


  • Guo, Yue, and Clare Farrow (2008). Music, Food and Love. Piatkus. ISBN 0-7499-5078-1.
  • Guo, Yue, and Clare Farrow (2008). Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing. Illustrated by Helen Cann. ISBN 978-1-84686-114-7.

External links[edit]