The muqam system developed among the Uyghur in northwest China and Central Asia over approximately the last 1500 years from the Arabic maqam modal system that has led to many musical genres among peoples of Eurasia and North Africa. Uyghurs have local muqam systems named after the oasis towns of Xinjiang, such as Dolan, Ili, Kumul and Turpan. The most fully developed at this point is the Western Tarim region's 12 muqams, which are now a large canon of music and songs recorded from the traditional performers Turdi Akhun and Omar Akhun among others in the 1950s and edited into a more systematic system. Although the folk performers probably improvised their songs as in Turkish taksim performances, the present institutional canon is performed as fixed compositions by ensembles.
Each of the 12 muqams (named Rak, Čäbbiyat, Segah, Čahargah, Pänjigah, Özhal, Äjäm, Uššaq, Bayat, Nava, Mušavräk, and Iraq), consists of a main section that begins with a long free rhythm introduction, followed by pieces with characteristic rhythmic patterns that gradually increase in speed. These pieces are arranged in the same sequence in each muqam, although not all muqams have the same pieces. These parts are known as täzä, nuskha, small säliqä, jula, sänäm, large säliqä, päshru, and täkit. Some have an associated instrumental piece known as a märghul ("decoration") following it. Although each named piece has its characteristic rhythmic pattern, the melodies differ, so each piece is generally known by the muqam and the piece: for example, "the Rak nuskha" or "the Segah jula".
After the main section, there are two other sections, originally associated with other musical traditions, but included in muqams by performers such as Turdi Akhun and therefore included in the present 12 muqam tradition. The Dastan section includes songs from several of the romantic dastan narratives found widely in Central and South Asia and the Middle East. Each dastan song is followed by an instrumental märghul. The Mäshräp section consists of more lively dance songs that were originally connected with the performances of sama by dervish musicians of Turkistan.
The Uyghur Muqam of Xinjiang has been designated by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
- Rachel Harris. The Making of a Musical Canon in Chinese Central Asia: The Uyghur Twelve Muqam. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008.
- Nathan Light. Intimate Heritage: Creating Uyghur Muqam Song in Xinjiang. Berlin. Lit Verlag, 2008.
- Sabine Trebinjac. Le pouvoir en chantant: L'art de fabriquer une musique chinoise. Nanterre: Société d'ethnologie, 2000.
- Music of the Uyghur by Rachel Harris and Yasin Mukhpul.
- ^ http://aton.ttu.edu/turkishlist.asp
- ^ http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?RL=21
- ^ http://www.kashi.gov.cn/English/Tourism/Customs/12muqams.htm
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