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The Charms of Singing and Dancing
(Tianshannet) Updated: 2008-January-11 11:20:30


The Uyghur music and dances

Singing and dancing is what Xinjiang people like and what they are good for.

For them, singing and dancing is not just stage art, but a part of their daily lives.

They sing and dance when celebrating harvest or holiday. They also sing and dance in their leisure time.

The ethnic minority groups living in the oases like to sing songs about work, love, history and tradition. They can sing really beautiful songs with or without their traditional stringed instruments – the “duta’er”, “tanbu’er” or “rewapu”.

Those living in the grasslands have, their whole life, been involved with singing. They sing songs to greet the new-born babies. They sing songs to teach kids about history. They sing songs to tell visitors about the traditions of their tribes. They sing songs to win a lover’s heart. They sing several kinds of song in a wedding, which respectively indicate the feelings of the newly-weds and their families. They also sing songs when someone dies, using music to soothe the survivors of the deceased.

Singing and dancing often make a big scene. A group of people gather together to move their bodies rhythmically to the music and drum beats. Dancing is a kind of spree within bounds.

Singing and dancing can also be relaxing on a party of friends or folks. It is a wonderful way to spend the hours at dusk playing hand drums, producing intoxicating music, and singing and dancing to the joyful vibes.

Singing and dancing is a way to express one’s feelings. A romantic song or a hot dance is often the shortcut to a lover’s heart.

In this place, singing and dancing has become a daily routine, an indispensable part of life. It’s said that Xinjiang people’s hearts pulse to the tempo.

A Xinjiang without songs and dances would have been a dull place.

The origin of Xinjiang people’s singing and dancing talents can be traced back to the West Han Dynasty (202-8 BC), when the music department of the government put some “hu music”, or “music from the West” into their official record. When it came to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), Xinjiang music had become a fashion across the country. A female musician called Su Zhipo, who was an excellent lute player and an outstanding music theorist from Qiuci, had a very important influence upon the overall music style during this period. The famous poets at that time – commonly considered the best generation of Chinese poets – wrote a lot about Xinjiang songs and dances in their poems.

Xinjiang people’s remarkable singing and dancing skills can be attributed to the natural environment, their lifestyles and the characters of their nationalities. The vast grasslands give people the impulse of singing aloud. The comparatively closing environment on an oasis forces the residents to dance for entertainment. And Xinjiang people’s extra-open hearts decide that they will never stop pursuing in life. Endless singing and dancing is their pursuit of utmost happiness.

Xinjiang people’s superior singing and dancing skills can also be attributed to their flexibility when facing other cultural influences. They always learn more from others’ strengths. It’s not difficult to find the Indian and Arabian traces in the songs and dances of Xinjiang. And both the oasis life and the grassland life are reflected in these artistic creations.

The natural, historical and ethnic factors join to give birth to the remarkable tradition of singing and dancing, which is a highlight of Xinjiang’s unique culture.

The "Twelve Muqams" opera is a classical musical treasure of the Uygur people. It consists of a series of major song cycles. It takes days to finish performing the whole piece. It has been enlisted by UNESCO as an “intangible cultural heritage” of mankind.

The Twelve Muqams opera

However, Xinjiang singers and dancers never become narcissistic and ever think their performance is only for their own entertainment. They are always willing to share happiness with people from elsewhere.

In the meantime, outsiders also get to know about Xinjiang people’s characters by means of appreciating their songs and dances. The singing and dancing is like a special language that can reach beyond ethnic boundaries.

The popularity of Xinjiang songs and dances is tremendous and far-reaching. Quite a few Xinjiang songs have become international. Lots of Xinjiang instruments are adopted by other ethnic groups. Many major instruments that are wildly played all over China originated from Xinjiang, such as the Erhu, or two-stringed Chinese fiddle, the Pipa, or Chinese lute, and the flute.

Xinjiang dances have their unique skills. It can be hard to learn because the “dancing languages” there are too many.

Xinjiang dances are also exciting and buoyant, making the viewers feel like on fire.

Each kind of Xinjiang dances has it special connotation. Dances titled “Sainaim”, “Xiadiyana”, “Sama”, “Nazierkon” and “Milisi” are for self-entertaining. “Laipaier” and “Stilts Dance” are better in public performance. “Alamote” is one of the competitive dances, in which the dancers have to hold a coin, a handkerchief or a flower on their lips. And sometimes dancers imitate animals or dance with a stage property, such as a wooden scoop or a pile of bows and sauces.

Xinjiang songs are straight forward and right to the point. For example, quite many love songs are titled after the name of whom they’re dedicated to, such as the “Awaguli”, a folk song from Yili, “Alamuhan” from Urumqi, “Mayila” from Altay, and the famous “A Girl from Daban City”.

Many classic Chinese folk songs come from Xinjiang, like “What a Lovely Rose”, “Half a Moon Rises Up”, “Please Unveil” and “Youth Dance”.

And many other songs are inspired by Xinjiang music, such as “Belle Xinjiang”, “Why Flowers Are So Red”, “Grapes Have Ripened in Turpan” and “A Night on the Grassland”.

The “dance queen” Kangba’erhan and the “Ballad King” Wang Luobin both owe their outstanding achievements to their Xinjiang origins.

Xinjiang owns the biggest number of singing and dancing troupes in China. There are plenty of professional singers and dancers, but there are more average people who can sing and dance like professionals. Xinjiang people are born with singing and dancing genes. They can do both well without receiving any training.

The singing and dancing in Xinjiang is the most touching part of the local culture.

You can not find out the gist of Xinjiang singing and dancing without going to a live show.

Sitting under grape trees, or being a guest in a local yurt, you can listen to wonderful performance of strange instruments – “rewapu”, “sataer”, “tanbuer”, “dutaer” and “aijieke” of the Uygur people; “dongbula”, “kubuzi” and “sibuzie” of the Kazak people; “Kumuzi”, “keyake” and “queaoer” of the Kirgiz people; “tuobuxiuer”, “yikele” and “chuwuer” of the Mongolian people; “saiyitu’er” and the Eagle Bone Flute of the Tajik people, “sanxian” and “xihu” of the Xibe people; guitar of the Ozbeks; Tartar people’s Mandolin; and the accordion of Russian ethnic group.

You can take some time visiting elderly folk singers, who will sing epics and folktales for you.

You can also join the hilarious groups of dancers and singers sharing their joy.

There are also the famous Uygur singer Daolang, the wonderful Tajik mountain ballads, the hand drum with a thousand different beats, and Kirgiz players who play Pipa reversely.

Go to Xinjiang. Drown yourself in magnificent singing and dancing.

(SOURCES:XJTS)Editor: Chengli
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