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The Uyghur Musicians From Xinjiang
Music From the Oasis Towns of Central Asia
GlobeStyle (

This would be a fun CD to play a game of "Guess the Music's Origin" with your fellow world music enthusiasts. Drop the laser "needle" on Track 1 and you are greeted with a drum and double-reed processional that places you in the lead-up to a raucous wedding celebration in Turkey. Moving on to Track 2 you are surrounded by a pentatonic ensemble of bowed and plectrum-plucked strings topped by a swooping, glissando vocal that plunks you down in rural China somewhere. On the all-instrumental Track 3 you feel the entrancing drone of sympathetic strings in the lutes that tug you back toward the Indian subcontinent. The meditative solo singing accompanied by open diatonic strumming on Track 4 flashes a wide-screen view of the vast Mongolian steppe in your mind's eye. The microtonal inflections in the fleet-fingered steel-stringed lute passages on Track 5 wafts an aroma of Persian spices into the room.

Xinjiang-Uyghur is currently an autonomous region in China's extreme northwest. It is sometimes called "Chinese Turkestan" and has seen its share of violent conflict between the largely Muslim Uyghurs and the national government that has encouraged the transmigration of the majority Han Chinese into the region. Tracing their heritage back to Central Asian Turkish people, the Uyghurs' music owes much in terms of structure to Arabo-Persian maqams (modes and melodic patterns). The strings and woodwinds are also obviously descended from Middle Eastern instruments. However, as one notes from listening to this sampling of Uyghur music, it is clear that harmonic and melodic elements from the neighboring Hans and Mongolians have been incorporated into certain categories of music over the years, making for an entertainingly rich melange that defies easy pigeonholing by visiting ears. - John Cho


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