Born to a musical family in Beijing, Wu Tong has become his generation's most visible proponent of traditional Chinese music. As a founding vocalist of the pioneering rock band Lunhui (Again), which merges Western and Asian traditions, a performer with the Silk Road Ensemble, and a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta and Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Wu has achieved an unparalleled following for Chinese music on three continents.
Wu began his musical studies at age five with his father, and soon won dozens of national and international competitions in the Chinese wind instrument category. Throughout his youth, Wu was showcased as a national star, playing for Chinese dignitaries and visiting leaders. He entered the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music’s pre-college program at age 11, and upon graduation from the Conservatory at age 19 became the youngest soloist of the China Central Traditional Music and Dance Company, which toured extensively throughout China and abroad.
In 1991, Wu and four Central Conservatory classmates founded Lunhui and began merging the energy of rock music with traditional Chinese form and aesthetics. After their 1993 hit On the Way to Wartime Yangzhou, which set the words of Song Dynasty poet Xin Qiji to music, JVC Japan immediately signed the band. Subsequent recordings in 1995, 1997 and 2001 made Lunhui China’s premier rock band in sales as well as live performances. Lunhui became the first rock band to appear on Chinese national television in 2000, and is featured regularly on national broadcasts and pan-Asian cable television.
Wu joined the Silk Road Ensemble in 1999. He was the featured vocalist for Blue Little Flower, his arrangement of the traditional Chinese folksong, and performs on the Ensemble’s albums When Strangers Meet, Beyond the Horizon, New Impossibilities and Off the Map. He has been a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, and, in 2004, spent several months working with Siemens at its United States headquarters to develop looping technology for a new electric sheng.
Wu remains a chart-topping vocalist in China while continuing to travel extensively with the Silk Road Ensemble. In recent seasons, he has appeared with the Ensemble at such prestigious locations as the Aichi World Expo, the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and Millennium Park. In April 2007, he was featured with the Silk Road Ensemble in a series of concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
In 2010, the album Yo-Yo Ma & Friends: Songs of Joy & Peace won the Best Classical Crossover Album in the 52nd Grammy Award, which Wu Tong participated in the album production. He also released his personal album Wu Tong / The Sound from My Heart and it was nominated as the Best Crossover Album in the 21st Golden Melody Award in Taiwan. In May 2012 Wu Tong was awarded as the Musician of the Year by China Institute in New York for his achievement; shortly he was invited by the Aspen Ideas Festival 2012 and dazzled the audience with his random act of culture.