Wu Fei (吴非)– The Pirate and the Okra Boat (秋葵海盗)
Performed by Tiffany Freeman, bass
Program Note by Wu Fei
About the title "The Pirate and The Okra Boat", The pirate is Zheng Yisao, I learned about her story on NPR a few years ago about a book that was written about this extraordinary woman in China, who might be the most badass pirate in world history.
She was a Chinese pirate leader who terrorized the China Seas for decades in the Qing Dynasty in the early 19th century. She commanded over 1800 junks (traditional Chinese sailing ships) manned by 60,000 to 80,000 pirates – men, women, and occasionally children. Her ships entered into conflict with several major powers, such as the East India Company, the Portuguese Empire, and the Qing government.
After I finished writing the piece, I was thinking about a title, Zheng Yisao kept jumping in my head. I was making dinner and cutting okras. The way the okras (30-40 of them) were laid out on my kitchen counter looked like boats. I started imagining them as Zheng Yisao's boats. They are healthy boats and eatable so the pirates and their family could stay fed and healthy. Those okra boats are magical that can grow back out once you eat them. The double bass also looks like a boat that can be a giant musical okra. Tiffany is a woman bassist, and Zheng Yisao was a woman pirate, both are rare and badass at the same time. That's how I named the piece.