Xinjiang Uyghur Musical Instruments

Uygur music is accompanied by a variety of instruments. The present Uygur music instruments are developed from ancient instruments from the Western Region and also from modern China and foreign instruments. The major instruments are stringed, wind and percussion instruments. Here we introduce five typical instruments, namely Dutar, Tämbür , Rawap , Khushtar , and Ghijäk .
musical instruments

 

Dutar

 

A long-necked plucked lute with two nylon (formerly silk) strings tuned a fifth or sometimes a fourth apart, with seventeen chromatic frets. Dutar is beautifully decorated, like all Uyghur lutes, with settings in horn or bone. It is used to accompany folksongs, and as a supporting instrument in the Muqam. Dutar can be found in almost every Uyghur home, and is the sole instrument which Uyghur women have traditionally played. It is played glissando, mainly on the upper string but with some heterophony from the thumb on the lower string.
musical instruments
musical instruments

 

Tämbür

 

The longest of the Uyghur lutes at around 150cm, Tämbür has five metal strings. The melody is played on the double right-hand strings, using a metal pick (nakhäla) on the index finger. Tämbür is sometimes used as principal instrument in the Muqam, folksongs, narrative songs and instrumental pieces.
musical instruments

 

Rawap

 

The shorter lute, plucked with a horn plectrum. Several different types are played by the Uyghur. The Kashgar Rawap , at around 90cm, has a small bowl-shaped body covered with skin and five metal strings, and is decorated with ornamental horns. The Shorter Herder’s Rawap , found in the Khotan region, measures around 70cm and is strung with two paired or three sheep-gut strings. Both of these types are played by the narrative singers. Dolan Rawap , the principal instrument in Dolan Muqam with one melodic and several sympathetic strings and pear-shaped body, ressembles the Afghan rubab more closely than the Kashgar Rawap . The Qumul Rawap is similar to Dolan version, and used in folksongs and the Qumul Muqam. The Kashgar Rawap has more recently become a professional virtuoso solo and orchestral instrument (Täkämmul Rawap) with six metal strings. An equivalent bass Rawap has also been added to professional orchestras.
musical instruments
musical instruments

 

Khushtar

 

A prominent instrument in the professional troupes, the Khushtar viol was developed in the 1960s, modeled in its shape on instruments depicted in Xinjiang’s early Buddhist cave murals. It is tuned and bowed like the professional Ghijäk , but its tone is lower and softer, since the whole instrument is made of wood. It is also found in soprano and tenor versions.
musical instruments
musical instruments

 

Ghijäk

 

musical instruments A fiddle with a soundboard of stretched skin. The largest of the Uyghur Ghijäk is found amongst the Dolan, with one horse-hair melodic string and several metal sympathetic strings. The Qumul Ghijäk has two bowed strings tuned a fifth apart, and six to eight sympathetic strings. The earliest Chinese historical records relate that a bowed instrument strung with horse-hair was played in the Qumul region, but the contemporary instrument is probably a fairly recent hybrid between the Chinese Erhu fiddle and the Uyghur Ghijäk , testament to the Chinese cultural influence in this easternmost point of Xinjiang. The Ghijäk now played by professional musicians was adapted in the 1950s, today its four metal strings are tuned like the violin but its playing technique is closer to the Iranian spike fiddle, held on the knee, the bow is held loosely in the hand, palm upwards, and the strings are pressed against the bow by pivoting the instrument. This Ghijäk is also found in soprano and tenor versions.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Uyghur Tribe in China

 

Location

 

The Uyghur (also spelled Uygur , Uighur , Uigur ) are a Turkic people of Central Asia. Today Uyghurs live primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. There are also existing Uyghur communities in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Germany, and Turkey and a smaller one in Taoyuan County of Hunan province in south-central China.
musical instruments

 

History

 

Historically the term Uyghur was applied to a group of Turkic-speaking tribes that lived in the Altay Mountains. Uyghur means unity or alliance. The origin of the ethnic group can be traced back to the Dingling nomads in northern and northwestern China and in areas south of Lake Baikal and between the Irtish River and Lake Balkhash in the third century B.C.

 

Livelihood

 

The Uyghur farm areas are around the Tarim Basin and the Gobi Desert. Wheat, maize and paddy rice are the region’s main grain crops, and cotton is a major cash crop. The Tianshan Mountains are rich in coal and iron, the Altay in gold, and the Kunlun in jade. The region also has big deposits of non-ferrous and rare metals and oil, and rich reserves of forests and land open to reclamation.

 

Costume

 

The cotton growing and cotton yarn spinning industry has a long history. People usually wear cotton cloth garments. The Uygur, old and young, men and women, like to wear a small cap with four pointed corners, embroidered with black and white or colored silk threads in traditional Uygur costumes. Girls in the past combed their hair into a dozen braids, and regarded long hair as part of female beauty. After marriage, they usually wear two braids with loose ends, decorated on the head with a crescent-shaped comb. Some tuck up their braids into a bun.
musical instruments

 

Religion

 

The Uyghur believe in Islamism. Over the centuries, many mosques, mazas (Uygur complexes, nobles’ tombs), theological seminaries and religious courts were set up in Uygur areas. Over the past few hundred years, religion has greatly influenced economic, judicial and educational affairs and the Uygur family and matrimonial system.
musical instruments

 

Literature

 

The Uyghur language and script contributed to the enrichment of civilizations of the other peoples in Central Asia. Compared to the Europeans of that time, the Uyghur were far more advanced. Most of the early Uyghur literary works were translations of Buddhist and Manichean religious texts, but there were also narrative, poetic, and epic works. Some of these have been translated into German, English, Russian, and Turkish. After the general population’s conversion to Islam, world-renowned Uyghur scholars emerged and Uyghur literature flourished.

 

Music

 

The Uygur are excellent at singing and dancing. The Twelve Mukams is an opera epic comprising more than 340 classic songs and folk dances. This musical treasure, which was on the verge of being lost, was collected, studied and recorded.
musical instruments
There is a wide variety of plucked, wind and percussion Uygur musical instruments, including the Dutar , strummed Rawap and Dap . The first two are instruments with a clear and crisp tone for solo and orchestral performances. Dap is a sheepskin tambourine with many small iron rings attached to the rim. It is used to accompany dancing.
musical instruments

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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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.
musical instruments

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.

musical instruments

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

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