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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Xinjiang rescues "living cultural relics" -- Muqam

A Muqam fever has appeared on both sides of the Tianshan Mountains following the Ministry of Culture's recent announcement that China will report Muqam of Xinjiang's Uygur people as world non-material cultural heritage. Once approved, Muqam will become the third "member" of world cultural heritage in China after Kunqu opera and Guqin. Muqam is a kind of musical phenomenon spreading among those nationalities that mainly depend on agriculture and farming in oasis in Xinjiang. Apart from Xinjiang in China, there are also various forms of Muqam music in more than 20 different countries. However, the Muqam music in Xinjiang boasts the biggest composition, longest history and richest forms among all the extant Muqam music. Have you ever heard a concert that takes one day and one night to play? The 12 Muqam of Xinjiang's Uygur people has 360 melodies, 4,000-plus lines of lyrics, and the whole set needs 24 hours to finish. Muqam of Xinjiang serves as a witness of cultural exchanges between the east and the west. Being the communication hub en route the Silk Road, Xinjiang experienced collision and melting of eastern and western cultures. Consequently, the development of Muqam, originated from the local people, has greatly taken on the influence of multi-culture, presenting a scene of radiant splendours. The 12 Muqam has long been passed on from masters to apprentices in a way that oral teaching inspired true understanding. However, the traditional way of inheritance, which was easy to scatter, faded away over the years. On the eve of the founding of People's Republic of China, the 12 Muqam was on the edge of extinction due to its large composition, abysmal meaning of the lyrics and long tunes which made the mechanical memorization of it impossible. At that time, only a seventy-year-old artisan in Xinjiang was able to perform the complete 12 Muqam. In 1950, Ministry of Culture dispatched musicians on a mission to rescue the dying music treasure. After finding that seventy-year-old artisan in Xinjiang, the musicians recorded the whole set of 12 Muqam with an old-fashioned recorder. It takes the musicians six years to sort out all the music score and lyrics. In 1960, Music Collection of 12 Muqam was published and it was the first time that the 12 Muqam was recorded in the form of music score, which served as the prelude to the inheritance of 12 Muqam from oral instruction to written records.
By People's Daily Online

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