All posts tagged: Rozi Sayit

Spoken Word Recordings and the Uyghur Soundscape

As in many Islamic societies around the world, Uyghurs listen to cassette and mp3-recorded sermons, poetry and essays as a way to tune-in to the sensibilities of the rapidly changing social world and to find their place within larger communities. Those who listen to these forms of media are ordinary Uyghurs, people who work as farmers and seamstresses, small-scale traders and handymen. They send their children to schools with red scarves tied around their necks and worry that their kids won’t be able to find their way in the new world. Many of the most popular recordings focus on ethical action, on living right, and on what the world “out there” is like. They are both entertaining and instructive. They focus on the state of things; they are full of irony and humor. They are often densely woven with the tradition of oral storytelling and other games of language and narrative. They create a soundscape that effects people. There is perhaps no more famous a recording than the recording of the long poem by Rozi …

What It Means To Be A Uyghur Man

Watching the leaked surveillance video of two men walking with a sea of migrant workers in front of the train station in Ürümchi makes your blood turn cold. You want to look away but you can’t. You want to understand what was going through the minds of those men with their hats pulled low as they moved in step with the crowd – but you can’t. Only after the shock of the fireball and the smoke clears can you stop looking, but then you can’t un-see it. You can only play it over and over in your mind. Xi Jinping said that what those two men at the train station on Wednesday, April 30, 2014 were feeling was an “overweening arrogance.”  I don’t know what they were feeling; none of us can really know. It is in times of grief and shame like these that Uyghurs might turn to people like the late-poet Rozi Sayit for a clearer understanding of themselves and what Uyghur life should be. In his lyric (performed above by Abdulla), Rozi …

The Legacy of the Uyghur Rock Icon Exmetjan

People still remember where they were the day Exmetjan[1] died. It was Thursday, June 13, 1991. He was only 22 years old. As is common with the death of an icon, many people refused to believe he was gone. Instead rumors spread that thugs from a rival disco had knifed him in a back alley or that he had faked his death and gone abroad to marry a princess. Exmetjan had been in Ürümchi preparing for a concert across the then (relatively) open border with Kazakhstan when he died. Back in those days before the train reached Kashgar and the highway stretched across the desert to Hotan, it was difficult to carry bodies home for burial. There were no freezer trucks. After a long and bumpy ride around the desert Exmetjan arrived in his hometown of Qarakash (near Hotan) covered in celery and ice against the smell of rot. People remember when he arrived. As his official biography puts it, Exmetjan died of “an illness.” Although everyone knows he died of a heroin overdose, no …