TIANSHANNET   ›   Culture&History   ›   Culture

Brass band brings new rhythm to rural Xinjiang

  URUMQI, May 22 (Xinhua) -- "The brass band I've seen on TV is coming," says Arzigul Xelil, a villager from Luopu County in Hotan, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

  What makes Xelil even more excited is that she will walk in a fashion show on the same stage where the band will perform.

  Although it is more than two hours before the show, villagers of Luopu County cut short their farm work for the day and gather in front of the stage to spectate.

  Some villagers sit on the ground or on the short stools they bring along, while others stand behind the crowd, leaning on their bicycles.

  The Luopu County Brass Band always attracts a large audience whenever it performs in rural areas, according to Abdusemet Seydiexmet, who plays trombone in the band.

  Seydiexmet joined the band in 2016 when it was founded. At that time, it was hard for him and his 47 co-musicians, mostly amateurs, to believe that they would go on to perform 16 famous Chinese and foreign songs three years later.

  Despite his passion for music, Seydiexmet, now 26, had never learned to play an instrument before.

  "I didn't know how to read sheet music when I started learning how to play an instrument," says Seydiexmet.

  To solve the problem, he would memorize the melody of an entire song and keep his finger work in mind.

  "I worked hard, and the skin on my mouth even came off as I practiced trombone so much," Seydiexmet recalls. But the hard work paid off and his skills soon started to improve.

  The band puts on performances during the slack farming season, which starts in November and ends the following March. During that period, the band's 48 musicians rehearse eight hours a day.

  "One minute on stage comes from 10 years of practice off stage," Seydiexmet says. "We want to put on the best show for our folks."

  Putting on the perfect show is hard for the band, especially since it consists of amateurs that work in professions such as teaching, driving and accounting. In the band, they play instruments including the saxophone, snare drum, flute and French horn.

  Because most musicians have little or no prior experience of playing instruments, it usually takes the band just over two months to master one song.

  Before joining the band, Seydiexmet earned his living mainly from farming. Now, with financial support and the help of subsidies from the local government, Seydiexmet can earn an extra income from playing trombone in the band.

  But the band brings more than just money to its members.

  Seydiexmet used to be introverted and would not speak much. Thanks to the band, however, his confidence has grown.

  Like Seydiexmet, Turghun Tashtomur, a 53-year-old bus driver who plays the snare drum in the band, has also found a boost in confidence from performing on stage.

  "After I joined the band, my friends, wife and children all thought I was pretty brilliant and cool," Tashtomur says. "I am happy hearing them say that."

  Some musicians have even found love in the band.

  Bass drummer Tursunjan Mijit and sax player Salamet Abdurishit were married and now have a child together, while 26-year-old saxophone player Qi Zhiwen fell in love with clarinet player Kang Zhuanhui.

  Thanks to Xinjiang's recent economic development and social stability, locals have seen their incomes grow. As a result of rising incomes, more and more folk art groups have come into being.

  Local governments also offer free training sessions and financial support to art groups like the Luopu County Brass Band, allowing these folk teams to bring culture and joy to people living in vast rural areas.

  Seydiexmet's brass band is now working on adding traditional Uygur instruments to the band, including hand drums. By doing so, they hope the band can win over a larger audience in rural areas.