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Uyghur music research articles abstracts (1)

Reggae on the Silk Road: The Globalization of Uyghur Pop

          Rachel Harris

China Quarterly, Cambridge Journals, Cambridge University Press.


In this article I take examples of popular music recordings released in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region during the 1990s and first few years of the 21st century, in order to illustrate the global flows of sounds and meanings which influence Uyghur pop. The disseminatory power of "micro media" (cheap cassettes, VCDs) facilitates the global movement of both musical sounds and political ideas. I argue, using examples of Uyghur reggae and Uyghur belly dancing, that these sounds and meanings are radically adapted and re-signified in the construction of Uyghur identity and cultural politics, in a complex interplay between the global, national and local, and between tradition and modernity. I discuss the gendered expression of Uyghur nationalism in popular song through the iconic figure of the weeping mother, demonstrating the ability of expressive culture (here music) to reveal underlying or underpinning political trends.

Harris , Rachel (2005) 'Reggae on the Silk Road: the Globalisation of Uyghur Pop.' The China Quarterly, 183 (1). pp. 627-43. © The China Quarterly. Published by Cambridge University Press

Read the whole article as PDF format (publisher's version)

The Uyghur Twelve Muqam PDF


© The China Quarterly. Published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Journals.

Mazar festivals of the Uyghurs: music, Islam and the Chinese State

          Rachel Harris and Rähile Dawut

British Journal of Ethnomusicology. Volume 11/1 (2002): Special Issue: "Red Ritual."


Mazar in Central Asia are the tombs of Islamic saints, mythical or real, whose protection the Uyghurs (Turkic Muslims of China’s northwestern Xinjiang Autonomous Region) invoke against drought, for a good harvest, for the birth of a son, and so on. Several hundred of these tombs are scattered around the deserts and oases of Xinjiang, mapping out a sacred landscape whose paths Uyghur peasants follow yearly on their pilgrimage journeys around the tombs. Some mazar, like the tomb of the eleventh-century Sultan Bughra Khan who fought a holy war to bring Islam to the region, are the sites of annual festivals which may be attended by thousands. The performance of music – the “classical” Muqam tradition, dastan (story-telling), drum-and-shawm dance music, Sufi zikr rituals – is an essential component of these festivals, used both for entertainment and with ritual meaning. The Uyghur mazar festivals are increasingly caught in the struggle between the Chinese State and rising Islamic fundamentalism in the region. This paper discusses the role of music in popular Islam in Central Asia, and Chinese Communist Party strategies of control and manipulation of popular religion, in terms of contesting the symbolic landscape and soundscape.

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