Muqam, the Living Fossils of Uyghur Music

The most prestigious and well-known genre of Uyghur music is the Muqam, consisting of poetic songs, stories and dance tunes. There are various forms of Muqam music in more than 20 different countries. However, the Muqam music in China Xinjiang Autonomous Region boasts the biggest in composition, longest in history and richest in forms among all the existing Muqam music.

Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam is a composite of songs, dances, folk music, and is characterized by its diversities of content, dance styles and musical instruments. It serves as a witness of cultural exchanges between the east and the west. Being the communication hub en route the Silk Road, Xinjiang experienced collision and melting of eastern and western cultures. Consequently, the development of Muqam, originated from the local people, has greatly taken on the influence of multi-culture. The Uyghur Muqam of Xinjiang has been designated by UNESCO as Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

 

 

Twelve Muqam , the Mother of Uyghur Music

 

The Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam has developed into four main styles, namely the Twelve Muqam, Turpan Muqam , Hami Muqam and Dolan Muqam. Twelve Muqam is known as the Mother of Uygur Music. Have you ever heard such a concert that takes one day and one night to play? The Twelve Muqam of Xinjiang’s Uygur people has 360 melodies, 4,000-plus lines of lyrics, and the whole set needs 24 hours to finish.

musical instruments

Legend has it in the mid-16th century, aided by other musicians, the imperial concubine Amannisahan of the Yarkant Kingdom, who was also an esteemed poetess and musician, devoted all her efforts to collect and compile Muqam music, which was then scattered across areas populated by Uyghur. She finally worked out 12 grand, yet entertaining compositions that are now known as the Twelve Muqam.
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In 1940s, the economy of Xinjiang was in recession and people lived in poverty and the 12 Muqam was facing extinction. In1950s there was only one person who could sing the complete 12 Muqam. He was Turdi Ahun born in a musician’s family in Yengisar County. He mastered 12 Muqam at the age of 20. He then performed the musical suite for more than 50 years in Kashgar, Hotan and other places. He could perform with the musical instrument of Tanbor, Duttar, Satar and Rawap. His performance with Satar was rated as unique in Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

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The local government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region made every effort possible to preserve the Twelve Muqam. In 1956, Muqam master Turdi Ahun and musician Wan Tongshu took great effort to record most of the vocal melodies and librettos of the Twelve Muqam. Their efforts paved the way for the renaissance of this cultural tradition. In 1960, two volumes of Twelve Muqam sung by Turdi Ahun were published. The oral cultural heritage was finally secured in the form of its first publication.

 

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

 


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Music of the Uyghur

The Uyghur are a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia. Today Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. An estimated 80 % of Xinjiang’s Uyghurs live in the southwestern portion of the region, the Tarim Basin. Uyghur Musical Instruments The Uyghur have a great love of singing and dancing. They have been known for their vibrant music and ethnic dances since very ancient times. Music and dance occupy a significant place in life of the Uyghur. There are no holidays, parties and wedding festivities without music and dances. Uighur traditional songs are remarkable for their melodious originality.

 

Distinctive Uyghur Music

 

Uyghur Musical Instruments

Uyghur music embraces several distinct regional styles, product of the geography and complex history of the region, whose oasis kingdoms, separated by mountains and deserts, have been subject through the course of history to rule by many different outside forces.

 

The History of Uyghur Music

 

Uyghur Musical Instruments

Uyghur scholars trace the roots of their music back to the 11th century BC to the Di people who are referred to in the earliest of the Chinese dynastic annals, living to the north of China. And generally speaking, the historical flow of music has largely moved from west to east in the following centuries. While Chinese histories record the influence of the Western Region on central China, Uyghur music has historically absorbed much influence from the regions of Central Asia to the west, arriving along the famed Silk Road.

 

Distinct Regional Styles

 

Due to the particular geography of Xinjiang and the constant influence of one culture on another, musical styles have developed along different paths over the years, and each tradition is typical of its locality.

The musical traditions of the southern oasis towns of Khotan and Kashgar are more closely allied to the classical Central Asian traditions of Bukhara and Samarkand, while the music of the easternmost oasis town of Qumul has closer links to the music of Northwest China. Each of the region’s oasis towns have to this day maintained their own distinctive sound and repertoire, but they are linked by a common language and overarching culture, maintained by constant communication through trade and movement of peoples. Musically there is much to link these local traditions, in terms of instruments, genres, styles and contexts.

 

Traditional Uyghur Music

 

There are several kinds of traditional Uygur music, the most famous of which is the classic Uygur musical composition the “Twelve Muqam”, a major force in the development of Uygur folk music. Uyghur Musical Instruments

Another kind of Uygur music is called “Sanam,” or “beauty,” which involves singing and dancing to a group consisting of between seven to a dozen pieces of song-and-dance music. The music begins slowly and steadily, then picks up speed, and finally culminates in a climax of merry music and exuberant dances.

“Kuxak,” “Eytixish,” and “Maida” are spoken songs, which are common among the Uygur people. Accompanied by simple tunes, the speaker will talk his way through a song, usually about the love between a man and a woman. These songs can also be performed by two people.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

P.S. We need people with similar passion to join or partner with us in promoting ethnic handicrafts! Please contact us at interact@interactchina.com to make any suggestions that you may have in co-operating with us, or join as Affiliate.