Sun, 03 Jul 2022

Keeping Uygur musical heritage alive

28 May 2022, 22:30 GMT+10

© Provided by Xinhua

URUMQI, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Art center director Rehman Ablimit enjoys his daily routine of leading actors through rehearsals.

The 53-year-old is from Yarkant County of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The county is known as the hometown of the Twelve Muqams.

This unique artform, known as the "Mother of Uygur Music," comprises a group of classical music pieces combining Uygur song, dance and music, and is considered a treasure of Chinese ethnic music.

It was almost lost before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Thanks to the unremitting efforts of the government, as well as local folk artists, the artform lives on today.

"The government arranges for folk artists to participate in training in the Twelve Muqams for 15 to 30 days every year," according to Rehman Ablimit.

"Each artist receives a subsidy of 50 yuan (about 7.50 U.S. dollars) a day. They learn a Muqam piece every year while practicing dance and participating in various programs," he said.

To promote the inheritance of the heritage artform, the local government invested 5 million yuan in the construction of the Muqam art center. The performance hall can accommodate hundreds of performers simultaneously, and any visitor is welcome to learn the art there.

Awut Yuwup, an inheritor of the Twelve Muqams, has taught more than 60 apprentices. He has led his troupe to many provinces in east China to perform and introduce this artform.

"I'm so proud to be a practitioner, as we can perform outside Xinjiang and spread our intangible cultural heritage," he said.

In 2005, the Xinjiang Uygur Muqam Arts of China was approved by UNESCO as a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity."

The artform has also attracted cultural enthusiasts from other parts of China.

Wang Jiangjiang, 37, from north China's Hebei Province, studied operatic performance and composition in Italy. He came to Xinjiang in 2010, devoting himself to establishing a "music database" of Muqam artists.

He has interviewed and recorded videos of more than 3,000 Muqam artists to date.

"Muqam songs are full of ups and downs, and the drum beats are changeable, and this can only be passed down by practitioners. At the same time, the artform's system is huge, its words are profound, and its songs are long. It is very difficult to recite them completely," Wang said.

"Today, few people can sing all of the pieces, and I think that is one of the reasons why they need to be recorded," he said.

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