All posts tagged: Sufi

The RISE Collaborative at the Seattle Asian Art Museum

Bringing New Vitality to Uyghur Performance On a Tuesday evening in early 2016, American and Uyghur dancers wheeled across the rough stone floor of the Seattle Asian Art Museum. They were moving to the rhythms and countermelodies of a Uyghur ecstatic tradition: the Dolan Muqam. Building slowly from an arrhythmic introduction, high and echoing around the room, gradually this form of traditional Uyghur music emerged into a full-formed twirling dance around a taut rhythm. The sound and tense rhythms that filled the room came from the voice and resonator guitar of a single man: the Uyghur rock star Perhat Khaliq. It was Perhat Khaliq’s first visit to the United States and after his longstanding friendship with Mukaddas Mijit, it was the first time the two had created a new work together. Of course the space was also filled by a sold-out crowd, people pressed close on carpets and chairs that surrounded the room. Uyghurs had come from all over the state. They came from Portland and Vancouver. They came to celebrate Uyghur music and dance. …

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 …

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 …

Aspirational Desire, Migrant Masculinity and “Dao Lang”

This is Part 2 of a two-part series on Sichuan-born singer Luo Lin, a.k.a. Dao Lang. As I wrote previously, Luo Lin’s voice and melodies are extremely catchy. In a true sense of the term, he catalyzes — that is, he channels energy toward, and thereby accelerates — an aspirational ethos for many migrant workers in Northwest China. I also noted that Uyghurs often resist his catalytic charge by jealously guarding their indigenous cultural heritage. Yet, clearly, critiquing Luo Lin’s “Dao Lang” persona does not deny the very real force of his voice. He is an immensely talented performer; he has proved himself to be very adept at tuning in to desires particular to a Chinese rendering of an alien environment inhabited by displaced people. Since a majority of his fans, like himself, are earnest, hard-working men who come from elsewhere — Gansu, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Hebei, and Shandong, just to name a few common natal homes — Dao Lang centers his more recent work on stories of lack inscribed over Xinjiang’s landscape. Migrant workers in the oil fields, …