Uyghur Muqam of Xinjiang: Heavenly Music from Oasis
Featuring euphonious classic music, captivating plot and dazzling dances, Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam is an unmatched cultural gem springing up in the oasis of Xinjiang, land of dramatic contrasts and enduring legacy. As early as the Han Dynasty (220BC-220AD), it fledged. The successive dynasties witnessed it evolved into a highly developed and exquisite art form, as the cosmopolitan Xinjiang became a melting pot where different civilizations, religions and art forms, converged and left their marks on it.
Muqam music is a perfect blend of variations and continuity, which demonstrates myriad foreign influences and the close affinity with the musical culture of China's central plains. Its dancing performances, defined by lively steps, flowing rhythms and carnival atmosphere, are spellbinding. The most entertaining part, however, lies in its gestures inspired by animals and stunts such as dance around with a bowl atop head.
For outsiders, the charm of their dances and melodies are too obvious to ignore, while their lyrics, sung in Uyghur language, are completely bewildering. The lyrics consisting of folk ballads, narratives and poems, epitomize the Uyghur people’s wisdom, affection and philosophy and bear witness to the history and contemporary life of the Uyghur society. To give you a quick guide, here goes a brief summary: The lyrics of Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam fall into five themes: love, lecturing (aided by various proverbs), homesick, historical epic and individual’s life philosophy (meditate on the oasis life in desert, lament on the fleeting-joy of this secular world and express the hardship of fighting the elusive fate). Among them, the majority belongs to love songs.
Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam splits into four main regional styles, namely the Twelve Muqam, Turpan Muqam , Hami Muqam and Dolan Muqam. Among them, Twelve Muqam forms the centerpiece.
Famed as “the mother of Uygur Music”, Twelve Muqam boasts 360 different melodies and takes over 24 hours to play in full. Without it, any festival or grand occasion will be incomplete in Xinjiang. For those desert inhabitants, the enthusiasm it stirs, is no less sensational and overwhelming than FIFA World Cup is to football fans. It is widely recognized that Amannisahan, a beautiful concubine of the Yarkant Kingdom as well as a prestigious poetess and singer, made such great contribution to enrich Muqam and horned it into perfection, that she has been immortalized for eternity. The 12 solemn, yet merry and entertaining compositions she accomplished are still in circulation.
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