All posts filed under: Music

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 …

The “Real” Hong Qi, Bob Dylan, and Ürümchi

This is part 2 of our look at Hong Qi, a Uyghur folksinger who grew up Han. Hong Qi discovered Bob Dylan in 2001. That was the year he heard “Blowin’ in the Wind” for the first time. Speaking in an interview a decade later, he said he liked Dylan’s confidence — the feeling he evoked with his broken voice. Although Hong Qi says his English is “very bad,” the imagery in Dylan’s lyrics touched him deeply. Over the past decade, he says he has become a Dylan fan. “I like all his songs, all of his fascinating imagery. I respect his political stance. My songwriting is influenced by him.” In short, Dylan has become Hong Qi’s idol. His intensity and productivity inspires him. Writing in a blog post in 2009, he mused: “His music is not that intense, which enables you to get the force of his appeal. His songs are rough, which helps you understand their warmth elliptically; he is protesting something, shouting something, which I can comprehend across languages. There is no way not to, because he …