By Zhang Yunxing & Wang Ke
China.org.cn Multimedia Team
Where there are Uygurs, there are Muqam. As the Uygur people's most outstanding achievement in musical art, Muqam enjoys an unchallenged reputation as the vehicle of the Uygur culture.
"Xinjiang is a vast region rich in cultural resources. Protecting these resources, as embodied by Uygur Muqam art, and passing them on to future generations, are important tasks for my department," said Abulizi Abudureyimu, director of the Cultural Department of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. He is also the president of the Institute of China Uyghur Classical Literature and Muqam.
Xinjiang is now building 10 Muqam education centers – 2 large and 8 small – aimed at passing on the traditional performing art. In 2006, Turpan Muqam Education Center was set up and commissioned for use. Education centers offer a platform for Muqam folk artists to perform and to teach young Muqam students.
Last year, Xinjiang named 229 authorized Muqam educators. Each of them will receive a government subsidy of up to 450 yuan a month.
In order better to save and promote Muqam art, in recent years Xinjiang has published a series of audio and video disks and books on Muqam. Several colleges and universities in Xinjiang, including Xinjiang Arts Institute, have set up Muqam classes. Some even have postgraduate programs on Muqam.
In 2006, the autonomous region government invested 1.8 million yuan to support Xinjiang Muqam Art Troupe in creating a unique large-scale performance event – The spring of Muqam. The troupe was invited to perform in Taiwan in three successive years from 2005 to 2007. Local residents didn't quite understand the lyrics, but it was clear that they loved the music and dance.
"We are exploring new ways to bring this traditional art form to a wider audience," said Abulizi. A 23-episode TV play called Memories of Muqam will be broadcast by CCTV later this month. "In this form, more people will get to know the art," Abulizi added.
In counties like Awati and Markit, a morning exercise adapted from the music and dance of Dolan Muqam is now being promoted in primary and middle schools and is very popular among local residents.
"There is a saying that goes: ‘We Uygur are born with Muqam and die in Muqam'. Muqam is the cultural heritage and the pride of our Uygur people," said Rayila Aziz, who studied journalism in Xinjiang University five years ago and is now an editor of the Uygur version of Tianshannet.com.cn, a local news portal website.
Characterized by various styles, the twelve sets of Muqam, also called Twelve Muqam for short, are representative of the now-preserved Xinjiang Uygur Muqam art form. They enjoy considerable popularity in Kashgar, Hotan, Akhsu in south Xinjiang, and Ili in north Xinjiang.
In Twelve Muqam, known as the "mother of Uygur music", every set of Muqam is made up of three parts: Congnaghma (a series of lyric songs, instrumental pieces, and sung music accompanied by dance), Dastan (narrative music) and Meshrep (a series of sung music accompanied by dance), each with 20-30 sub-melodies. To sing a complete Muqam takes around 2 hours and the whole set of the Twelve Muqam consists of 360 different melodies and takes over 24 hours to play in full.
The other three regional Muqam, the Turpan Muqam, Qumul (Hami) Muqam and Dolan Muqam, are distinct from the Twelve Muqam in structure.
Xinjiang Uygur Muqam was designated by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity on Nov. 25, 2005.