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U I G H U R   M U S I C



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Music and dance occupy a significant place in life of the Uighurs. There are no holidays, parties and wedding festivities without music and dances. Uighur traditional songs are remarkable for their melodious originality. They can be heard both in solo, and in choral singing. Singing is accompanied by music, which leads theme and variations of a song and emphasizes the song rhythm. While singing performers swing back and forth in tune of songs, and sometimes they clap in time with the music. 

Nowadays, certain parts of Twelve Uighur Muqams, a unique creation of musical folklore, are widely popular. Folk songs and muqams are performed to the accompaniment of folk instruments, which the Uighurs have in a great number. Some of them are: a dutar is a string instrument with an oval barrel and a long neck, which has from 8 to 15 movable frets; a tambir is a stringed musical instrument played by plucking, a sitar is a lute with 3 metal strings; a stringed instrument with 9 strings; a 3-stringed and a 5-stringed ravap; 48-stringed dulcimer; a qalun – an instrument with 18 pairs of strings; a gidjak with 4 to 10 strings. Among percussion instruments there are: a dap or shaldap – a tambourine; a big drum - dumbak; a small drum – nagra; a kettke-drum – tevilvaz and brazen cymbals. Wind instrument include a nyay – a reed flute; a surnyay – a pear-tree clarinet; a carnay – a long instrument made of a brazen pipe. 

Music is accompanied by dance. Uighur dances are very graceful and vigorous. Mastery of Uighur dancers was valued so high that they were invited by emperors of Tang Dinasty to participate in special festivities. 

At present there are no Uighur festivities without dance. The Uighurs have a great number of genre dances, which are: holiday dances, hunters’ dances, lovers’ dances, farmers’ dances and others. 

There is a number of Uighur Soviet composers, conductors and musicians. Kuddus Kuzhamyarov is one of the outstanding Uighur Soviet composers of the 20th century. A son of a Uighur farmer, K. Kuzhamyarov became a People’s artist of the USSR and the USSR State Prize laureate. The composer’s works include opera “Nazugum”, “Golden Mountains”, “Sadyr Palvan”, a ballet “Chintomur Batur” and numerous symphonies. Composers I.Masimov, I.Isayev, N.Kibirov and S.Kibirova made a significant contribution in development of Uighur music. 

A People’s artist of the USSR Gaziz Dugashev is well-known in musical world. He was a conductor of Kazakh Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet named after Abay. He also conducted in Bolshoy Theater of the USSR. 

Tamara Alibakiyeva, Doctor of Arts, professor of Alma-Ata Coservatoire named after Kurmangazy plays an important role in musicology. She made an invaluable contribution in research of cycle of “Twelve Uighur Muqams” as well as song folklore of the Uighurs. Having gathered rich folklore material, Tamara Alibakiyeva was the first to classify genres of Uighur music folklore. Having “Twelve Uighur Muqams” - a masterpiece, a pearl of Uighur folklore, set to music, the musicologist implemented a historical and theoretical analysis of the cycle and derived mode and intonation system of Medieval Uighur muqam. Based on comparative analysis of Uighur professional music folklore and musical professional genres of various medieval cultures, Tamara Alibakiyeva defined mutual influence between ancient music civilizations. More than 300 of her books and articles devoted to history of Uighur musical culture were published in different encyclopedic, scientific and scholar editions. Among them are “Uighur Historical Songs”, “Twelve Uighur Muqams”, “Uighur Wedding Songs”, “Uighur Funeral Songs” and others. Taking part in international musicological conferences, symposia, seminars and concerts, Tamara Alibakiyeva has been vigorously popularizing Uighur art on international stage over 40 years. She is well-known in the USA, Canada, countries of Europe and Asia. 

Opening of Uighur Theater21 in 1934 was one of the remarkable events in cultural life of the Uighurs in Kazakhstan. Uighur theater art developed under ponderable influence of such art masters as: People’s artist of Kazakhstan M.Semyatova, A.Shamiyeva, G.Jalilov, R.Ilakhunova, M.Bakiyev, S.Sattarova, N.Mametova, Z.Akbarova, G.Raziyeva, K.Abdrasulov, T.Baklhtybayev; Honored artists A.Akbarov, Zh.Asimov, M.Zaynaudinov, R.Tokhtanova, A.Sopiyev, Kh.Iliyeva, R.Marupova, A.Musayeva, S.Akbarova, K.Zakirov, M.Rakhmanova.   


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