All posts filed under: Music

The Poetic, Timeless Solitude In Tahir Hamut’s “Beautiful Lover”

One of the driving forces in the Uyghur film scene is a filmmaker and poet named Tahir Hamut. A graduate of Beijing’s National Minorities University, Tahir began his academic career as one of the premier Uyghur critics of Western Modernist literature. Throughout the 1990s he, along with Perhat Tursun and others, were the leaders of a Uyghur avant garde poetry movement. Then in 1998 he turned his attention to filmmaking. Now Tahir serves as one of the principle instructors in the Film Department of the Xinjiang Arts Institute in Ürümchi. Tahir’s first films were feature-length fiction films. Although in many ways straightforward romantic dramas, even in this early work we see flashes of ethnographic detail that give us hints of Tahir’s previous life as a poet and the way he was beginning to translate that vision into visual form. Tahir is a brilliant poet. His 1998 poem “Returning to Kashgar” is punctuated by a haunting imagery that tackles both the timelessness of loneliness and disillusionment of youth. It feels both forever contemporary and particular to …

The Blind Voice of the New Silk Road

Perhatjan performing in the second segment of the Voice of the Silk Road  This week was the screening of the seventh segment of the first round of The Voice of the Silk Road – a show that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs watch every Friday night at 8 pm local time on Xinjiang TV Channel 9. People like the contest because they can watch their favorite performers joke around with each other; they can see people they know perform or imagine themselves performing in their place. Uyghurs see themselves trying on a performance mode popularized by mainstream English and Chinese-language versions of the show, but instead of English or Chinese pop ballads and American and (largely) Han stories of unrecognized talent, on this show they see the reverse. They largely see Uyghur folk songs, classical muqam and pop music; and they mostly hear Uyghur stories of personal triumph. The Voice of the Silk Road is a celebration of an amateur love for Uyghur music. The contestants sing because they love to sing; they sing because they …

Uyghur Flamenco and “World Citizenship”

On any given weekend in China you can find a Uyghur band playing flamenco. It has not always been this way. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that a young man from Qarghiliq in Kashgar prefecture discovered Turkish variations of Spanish flamenco. Over the next decade that man, Arken Abdulla, along other early flamenco guitarists such as Qehirman and Tursun (see the above video), introduced flamenco to the Uyghur world. Today it seems to be everywhere. Young Uyghur men with long flowing hair clap out the music of Andalusia from Ürümchi to Beijing. Many times this music is fused with the sounds of Sufi music and dance from the deserts of Southern Xinjiang; often it reflects the phrasing and compositional styles of the Muqam – a form of classical Islamic music and dance performance which is a source of immense pride for many Uyghurs. Arken, perhaps more than any other contemporary artist, is seen as embodying an “interlocking” (kirishmaq) of Uyghur forms of performance into the romance of the flamenco guitar. When one asks about …

Perhat, a Gracious Uyghur Voice from Northwest China

To watch a video of the above recording on YouKu please follow this link. Perhat has a lot of fans in Ürümchi. Walking around on college campuses it is not unusual to hear Han students humming a few lines of the chorus of “How Can You Let Me Be So Sad” – the song popularized by the Uyghur rock star Perhat on The Voice of China back in August. Uyghur students are in awe of how he has become so famous so quickly. They say things like, “Wow, now Perhat is hanging out with rock stars like Wang Feng who sold out the Bird’s Nest in Beijing; just a few months ago I said hello to him when I saw him buying stuff at the corner store.” When he competed successfully in the most recent round of the competition on September 5th, Han migrants from Sichuan sat and watched the TV transfixed, amazed that a Uyghur singer from their neighborhood could sing with so much ferocity. Although they didn’t understand the words of the Tracy …