The London Uyghur Ensemble
The London Uyghur Ensemble is a London-based group playing traditional and popular music of the Central Asian Uyghurs. Our group includes Uyghur musicians from the Uyghur homeland - East Turkistan (the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China) and from the Uyghur diaspora in Kyrgyzstan, in collaboration with professional British musicians. Our repertoire includes instrumental pieces, dance, composed and traditional songs, and the classical ‘Twelve Muqam’ suites.
Since the group was established in 2004‚ we have worked hard to build our repertoire and profile. Some of our musicians and associates came to the UK as refugees‚ and we made our debut at the London South Bank ‘Sanctuary’ festival for refugee music in 2005.
We have played in many venues around London including St Ethelburgas Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, the Diaspora London Music Village, SOAS World Music concert series, and the Islington Folk Club. Gigs around the UK include Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester, and the Sidmouth folk festival in Devon. Outside the UK we have performed at the Forde Folk festival in Norway, and the Taipei Silk Road festival in Taiwan.
We perform regularly at Uyghur community events, and as part of the community´s efforts to reach out to wider audiences in the UK and elsewhere. Since our website was established in 2007, we have received considerable interest from Uyghurs in the Uyghur homeland and diaspora.
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Rahimä Mahmut (singer)
Rahimä was brought up in a large religious family in the Ili valley (Uyghur region). She learned to sing from her mother‚ absorbing the distinctive local style‚ and was much in demand at local mäshräp parties; accompanied by her brothers on the dutar long-necked lute. Since settling in London she keeps up with the latest songs via VCD releases.
Nizamidin Sametov (tämbur)
A sizeable Uyghur community lives in Kyrgyzstan; many families fled from China during the Cultural Revolution‚ and they maintain the traditions of the homeland in exile. Alongside his interest in classical guitar‚ Nizamidin learned Uyghur traditions and several instruments: dap frame drum‚ dutar‚ and the longnecked tämbur lute from senior musicians in Kyrgyzstan.
Stephen Jones (violin/ghijäk)
Stephen Jones is a professional violinist‚ who can be more often found playing in the UK's leading early music orchestras. Also a leading authority on Chinese music‚ he has established several Chinese music groups in the UK before being tempted to join the London Uyghur Ensemble and begin experimenting with the ghijak spike fiddle.
Rachel Harris (dutar)
Rachel Harris teaches ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Her research focuses on the music of the Uyghurs‚ and she has spent long periods in the Uyghur region‚ where she learned the dutar.
Rustam Saliev (dap)
Originally from Kyrgyzstan, Rustam is now settled in London. He learned dap frame drum with Nizamidin, and is the newest addition to the group.
Kamil Abbas (ghijäk/tämbur)
The talented Uyghur musician was born into an educated family in Urumchi. Since childhood he has played Uyghur traditional instruments. Since his appointment to the Urumchi-based Uyghur Opera Arts troupe, Kamil Abbas has made significant achievements as a professional musician, playing in popular Uyghur operas including “Arshin Malalan”, “Gherip –Senem”, “Ghunchem”, “Kuresh yoli”, etc. Since he emigrated to Europe with his family, he established the Uyghur group “Meshrep” with his wife Gulendem Abbas and continues to perform with this group around Europe. In 1995 the group published its eponymous album “Meshrep”. Since 2008 has workedas a musician for the Belgian “Floe-Floe” puppet theatre. Since 2004 Kamil Abbas has been performing with the London Uyghur Ensemble in venues around Europe; adding his professionalism and musical skills to the ensemble’s profile.
Aziz Isa (founder/administrator)
Aziz Isa was born in Shayar county north of the Tarim River (Uyghur region). Since 2001 he has lived in London and has organised several Uyghur community events and cultural events to raise awareness of the Uyghurs amongst the British public. These activities led to the establishing of this London Uyghur Ensemble. Currently he is working in London as a Web Designer and interpreter / translator.