In East Turkistan, Rahimä found singing difficult and her creativity restricted. Having learnt initially from her parents, she began to sing seriously in competitions at university. ‘I remember once… I was very lucky that I was given the chance [to sing]… but I was not fortunate enough to sing my own song…” Now in the UK, Rahimä and the rest of the Ensemble perform the classical Mokam music of the region – listed by UNESCO as an ‘internationally-recognised intangible cultural heritage’. In addition to this, they also perform Uyghur rural folk tunes, particularly that of the Ili Valley.
Another member of the Ensemble, Nizamidin Sametov is from Kyrgyzstan Nizamidin brings to the Ensemble what he has learnt from senior Kyrgyzstan Uyghur musicians on daf frame drum‚ dutar and the long–necked tämbur lute. He now works with Rahimä and British artists Stephen Jones on ghijak and Rachel Harris on dutar to promote the Uyghur tradition. There are plans to experiment further: “We are planning to do more”, Rahimä says, “to work together, to create some more pieces, to combine the traditional and the current, maybe do some pop together…” The London Uyghur Ensemble has performed at a variety of locations, from community centres to the Southbank centre and abroad. The group play their songs to make the world aware of Uyghur identity and existence. They hope their music can be a voice that speaks about Uyghur culture and experience in the UK. “I feel very, very fortunate because I have my voice,’ says Rahimä, ‘I have my passion… so with it, at least, people can understand Uyghur”.