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UNESCO Highlights
Special> Living Legacies> UNESCO Highlights
UPDATED: October 10, 2012 NO. 41 OCTOBER.11, 2007
Uygur Muqam

The Xinjiang Uygur Muqam is the general term for a variety of Muqam practices widespread among the Uygur communities, which form one of the largest ethnic minorities of China. Throughout history, the Xinjiang region has been marked by a high degree of cultural exchange between East and West, in particular due to its location on the hub of the Silk Road.

As the most prestigious and well-known genre of Uygur music, Muqam is a composite of songs, dances, folk and classical music, and characterized by diversity of content, dance styles, musical morphology and instruments used.

The songs vary in rhyme and meter and are performed solo as well as in groups. The lyrics contain not only folk ballads but also poems written by classical Uygur masters. Thus, the songs reflect a wide range of styles such as poetry, proverbs, folk narrative and popular topics such as the praise of love and contemplation on life, reflecting the history and contemporary life of the Uygur society.

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.

In Muqam ensembles, the lead instruments, called Satar or Aijak, are made from local materials and vary in form (they may be bowed-stringed, plucked or wind instruments). The Xinjiang Uygur Muqam has developed four main regional styles, namely the 12 Muqam, Dolan Muqam, Turpan Muqam and Hami Muqam.

Today, traditional community festivities, in which everybody participates in the Muqam, are held much less frequently. The responsibility for passing on the tradition to new generations of practitioners has fallen on the shoulders of folk artists, and the interest of young people in Muqam is gradually declining. Now, several Muqam pieces are no longer performed, in particular certain elements of the "12 Muqam," which consists of more than 300 pieces of a total length of over 20 hours.

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