Music of the Uighurians
Born in 1939 in the Kashgar area in the Uighurian autonomous region Sinkiang in China, Abdulaziz Hashimov is said to be the guardian of the Uighurian musical heritage. As a music ethnologist he gathers documents of the old Uighurian musical culture throughout central Asia and is a master on the long-necked dotar and tanbur. With his all-star ensemble from Uzbekistan, Kirgistan and Kazakhstan he performs music from this complex and intellectually rich tradition.
The Uighurians are one of the great Turkish peoples of central Asia. In the 8th century they had a great empire, whose remnants are still strewn over a wide area. Most Uighurians make up half the population of the Uighurian autonomous region Sinkiang, which lies between Tibet and the independent republics of central Asia and now belongs to China. Uighurians have also settled in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan but especially in the lower Ili valley in Kazakhstan and in Uzbekistan. New estimates suggest that 200 000 of them live in Kazakhstan and 300 000 in Uzbekistan. Their history is shown in their religious allegiances, since they began with shamanism then turned to Buddhism and then to Islam.
Their musical repertoire varies according to region. The south is the home of the monumental cycle of 12 great suites, whose sequence recalls the Uzbek-Tajik shashmaqom or the Arabic-Andalusian nuba. The north on the other hand is more clearly marked by the Uighurians´ Turkish-Mongolian roots and reveals little cultural influence from the middle east. A very popular genre is made up of dance-suites, played with increasing speed. In the northern tradition they are played as duets on the dotar and tanbur, the former being a two-stringed long-necked lute, said to be the queen of Uighurian instruments, and the latter being a three-stringed variant. Both lutes are remarkable to see, due to their long necks.
The Uighurians are divided among nations, and for decades of Chinese occupation the inhabitants of eastern Turkestan have been forbidden to sing or play their traditional music. Nonetheless they have managed to preserve their cultural heritage, which is still being suppressed by the Chinese government. Their traditional monophonic songs can be traced back to the music of the old Uighurian kingdom and to the folk music of the region. Most of them are solos with instrumental accompaniment and based on a scale with five or seven notes. These ´muqams´ include ballads and instrumental pieces as well as dances.
The musician and musical ethnologist Abdulaziz Hashimov is widely known as the guardian of the Uighurian musical heritage. Born in the Kashgar area in Sinkiang under Chinese jurisdiction, he resolved to dedicate his life to Uighurian music and moved to Uzbekistan at the age of 22. Now a virtuoso on the long-necked dotar and tanbur, he has spent years of field-research into Uighurian music in Kazakhstan, Kirghizia and Uzbekistan, where he has gathered and transcribed many classical documents. He has a unique collection of muqam music from the northern part of Uigristan, the region Ilan, which is still inhabited mainly by Uighurians but now belongs to China.
Abdulaziz Hashimov has received the award of the Uzbek Academy of Arts and Sciences, has given many lectures and has performed at many central Asian and international festivals and conferences, including some in Hong Kong (1990), Paris (1991), Berlin (1992), Beijing (1993), Istanbul (1998), Dushanbe (1999) and Samarkand (2001).
His ensemble encompasses three generations of musicians, who together perform classical musical from the north of eastern Turkestan, reviving the Uighurian courtly tradition from the middle ages. Their repertoire is based on classical muqams.
To Hashimov´s ensemble belong
Husandjan Rahimjanov (song, gijak): a famous musician who has played Uighurian music in various ensembles. His instrument, the giyak, is a violin made of walnut wood, and its tone is coloured by python-skin in the cylindrical resonator.
Abubekri Sharipov (song): an expert on traditional, classical and folkloristic Uighurian music. He is a pupil of Abdulla Jorula and Giasytdina Barata and specialises in Nahsha, Sanam and other classical Ili genres.
Shavkat Hasanov (song): a singer of classical Uighurian songs.
Akram Hashimov (dotar): Hashimov´s son. Born in 1963, he played the dotar at family festivities and marriages while a child, qualified as a composer at the state conservatory in Tashkent, and has composed many works in the Uighurian style.
Author: Raiza Sultanova / Jean During