A year after a devastating earthquake, Sichuan province in China is still rebuilding. Many children remain separated from their parents. To raise awareness of victims still in need, folk musician Abigail Washburn and electronic artist Dave Liang spent two weeks in Sichuan to create Afterquake, an album that mixes actual sounds of the rebuilding with the voices of relocated school children.
After Washburn performed at one of the schools, she says, students came up to her to share their own songs and stories. Washburn tells NPR's Melissa Block that there were many emotional moments when little girls would sit on her lap and say, "I don't know how to believe in myself anymore. I don't trust the world. I don't trust life."
Washburn says she was shaken to the core by that, but would offer her encouragement.
"I said, 'You've got to believe in yourself. When you're down — sing, sing. Your voice is so beautiful, you should sing. It will make you feel better,' " Washburn says.
The stories and songs recorded for Afterquake are full of loss and heartbreak. But in the process of recording, Liang says, he was surprised by the children's optimism.
"From the darkest depths, these children were actually able to find so much happiness, especially in the school. It was an amazing communal experience," says Liang, producer of the Shanghai Restoration Project. "The earthquake definitely brought them all closer together."
Hear Melissa Block's full interview with Abigail Washburn and Dave Liang by clicking the audio link at the top of the page.