Muqam in Turpan

The Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam is the general term for a variety of Muqam practices widespread among the Uyghur communities, which form one of the largest ethnic minorities of the People’s Republic of China. Throughout its history, the Xinjiang region has been marked by a high degree of cultural exchange between east and west, due in particular to its central location along the Silk Road.


Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam includes songs, dances, folk and classical music and is characterized by diversity of content, choreography, musical styles and instruments used. These songs vary in rhyme and meter and are performed solo as well as by groups. The lyrics contain not only folk ballads but also poems written by classical Uyghur masters. Thus, the songs reflect a wide range of styles such as poetry, proverbs, and folk narrative, bearing witness to the history and contemporary life of the Uyghur society. In Muqam ensembles, the lead instruments are made from local materials and vary in form (they may be bowed-stringed, plucked or wind instruments). The dancing skills involve unique steps, rhythms and formations as well as figures such as flower-picking-by mouth, bowl-carrying-on-head and imitation of animals in solo dances. The Xinjiang Uyghur Muqam has developed four main regional styles, namely the Twelve Muqam, Dolan Muqam, Turpan Muqam and Hami Muqam.



Famed as “the mother of Uygur Music”, Twelve Muqam boasts 360 different melodies and takes over 24 hours to play in full. Without it, any festival or grand occasion will be incomplete in Xinjiang. For those desert inhabitants, the enthusiasm it stirs is no less sensational and overwhelming than FIFA World Cup is to football fans. It is widely recognized that Amannisahan, a beautiful concubine of the Yarkant Kingdom as well as a prestigious poetess and singer, made such great contribution to enrich Muqam and horned it into perfection, that she has been immortalized for eternity. The 12 solemn, yet merry and entertaining compositions she accomplished are still in circulation.


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