Abigail Washburn is a Grammy award-winning singer, songwriter, and clawhammer banjo player based in Nashville, Tennessee, whose music meshes traditional Appalachian and Chinese folk tunes. Washburn’s musical projects range from her string band, Uncle Earl, to her bilingual releases “Song of the Traveling Daughter” (2005) and “City of Refuge” (2011), to the mind-bending “chamber roots” sound of the Sparrow Quartet (featuring Béla Fleck, Casey Driessen, and Ben Sollee), to Afterquake, her fundraiser CD for Sichuan earthquake victims. Her most recent record with her husband, Béla Fleck, won a 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. Washburn is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has regularly toured in China, including a month-long tour of China’s Silk Road supported by grants from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Washburn is a TED Fellow and gave a talk at the 2012 TED Convention in Long Beach titled “Building U.S.-China Relations…by Banjo.” In March 2013, she was commissioned by New York Voices and the NY Public Theater to write and debut a theatrical work titled Post-American Girl, which draws from her 17-year relationship with China and addresses themes of expanding identity, cultural relativism, pilgrimage, and the universal appeal of music.

Last Updated: December 19, 2016

Sinica Podcast


Beijing Meets Banjo: Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
Wu Fei is a classically trained composer and performer of the guzheng, or traditional Chinese 21-string zither. Abigail Washburn is a Grammy Award–winning American banjo player and fluent speaker of Chinese. They’ve been friends for a decade and are...