All posts tagged: Pop Music

Abdulla, King of Uyghur Pop: His Themes

This is the second post in a multi-part series on Abdulla Abdurehim I wrote last week about the way Abdulla’s poetic voice corresponds with his deep literacy in Uyghur culture. But clearly Abdulla does much more than lean on the traditions of the past.  Although this attention to cultural symbolism and spiritual ritual are an important aspect of his public persona, Abdulla is also deeply engaged in the everyday life of increasingly urban Northwest China. In order to understand the depth of his appeal, I will outline the themes which emerge from his catalog and then analyse one of these themes. Put simply, Abdulla sings about love, moral struggle, and parents. If you take a random sample of his song titles you will see that nearly all of his songs fall into these categories: Songs of love: Embarrassment, They say I’m black, My flower you are not here, My nightingale, If I miss you, A word to my lover, Hey girl, I give you my everything, First Love, I can’t forget about you. Songs of morality: A …

“Older Brother” Abdulla the King of Uyghur Music: His Voice

This is the first post in a multi-part series on Abdulla Abdurehim I’ve asked many people why Abdulla “Aka” (Older Brother) Abdurehim is the undisputed King of Uyghur Music. It’s not that he has the gravitas of a young Elvis Presley, the steely resolve of Johnny Cash, the working-class poetics of Bruce Springsteen or the song and dance routine of the trickster Bob Dylan. People talk about the catchiness of his melodies, the way the best song writers flock to him like pigeons to a master and women flutter around him like moths to a flame. Yet these explanations always leave me unsatisfied. Abdulla is after all an average looking middle aged man from Kashgar. He’s average height. He has a moustache. It wasn’t until I watched a low-quality video (below) of him singing at an olturush or “sitting” that I began to appreciate the quiet dignity of his disposition – what Heidegger would call his being-in-the-world – and the way the burning passion of his voice fills a room. Abdulla carries a flame. When he …

Aspiration, Masculinity and the City

Hezriti Ali’s film short and music video “With Me” Within the marriage market of the urban Uyghur community it has become almost a cliché to discuss the moral aptitude of young men in terms of their frequency of prayer. When introducing a potential boyfriend, the line given is “he prays five times a day” (Uy: u besh namazni jayida üteydu). Although this description often overlooks other moral failures such as drinking, smoking and general carousing, the overall connotation conveyed is “this guy is a good, responsible guy.” In the short film “With Me,” Hezriti Ali, another self-made migrant actor-muscian from the Southwest edge of the Taklamakan Desert, tackles this problem in an unusually subtle and implicit way. In the ten minute narrative film which proceeds his performance of the song, Hezriti lays out the context which migrant young men face in the city. Since, as for all Chinese men, the first duty of sons (particularly, for Uyghurs, younger brothers) is to one’s parents, rather than to one’s wife and her family,  underemployed strivers in the …