From resistance to adaptation: Uyghur popular music and changing attitudes among Uyghur youth

Baranovitch, N. (2007). From resistance to adaptation: Uyghur popular music and changing attitudes among Uyghur youth. The China Journal, (58), 59-82. PDF

So I have always been interested in rock music and have been looking Uyghur rock since I discovered YouTube as a pre-teen. However, if you type that into YouTube, all you get is Askar Grey Wolf and Qetiq/Perhat Khaliq. The former was in Chinese and I just assumed he was pro-China, and the latter just wasn’t my style of rock. After reading this paper though, I was surprised to find out that Grey Wolf is exactly what I wished for in Uyghur rock… but it’s still in Chinese, which I don’t understand. Recently I found Adile Sidiq who combines traditional Uyghur music with different musical genres, one of which is rock, like this cover she did with her group on the Uyghur version of the VoiceUyghur version of the Voice. I hope I can find more Uyghur rock bands in the future though. The rap and hip hop scene seems to be flourishing underground (which is awesome) but I believe rock is just as good a genre for expressing social discontent and providing social commentary. Anyway, this paper compares Askar and Arken Abdulla and it’s pretty interesting. There are also translations of the songs, which I am always excited about. But I sometimes wonder if singers like Arken promote social harmony within China because it’s the only way to succeed, or if they really believe it. Is it a ‘reject the system’ vs ‘work the system to your advantage’ situation? I suppose it’s complicated.

Abstract:

This study proposes examining attitudes among the Uyghurs in Xinjiang by looking at Uyghur popular music. Popular music is known to be an excellent lens through which to examine any society, but it has proved especially useful in situations in which people are afraid to speak out freely about sensitive “issues”. Given that popular music is a complex expressive form, combining sound, lyrics and visual elements (in cassette and CD covers and MTV clips, as well as performances), it can communicate rich messages,
and thus can be used to articulate dissent (or other feelings) in indirect forms. Moreover, popular music by definition is widely disseminated, so it can also tell us something about what a relatively large number of people think, feel, like and dislike. This is particularly true in the context of a market economy, in which popular music constitutes a commodity that people can choose to consume or not to consume, thus enabling the researcher to measure the actual popularity of a certain musician or a certain body of songs. Another important advantage of popular music is its close association with youth. Given that among the Uyghurs it is this social group that has been most closely associated since the late 1980s with separatist ideology, the examination of Uyghur popular music enables us to direct our attention to those among whom resistance is most likely to be found.

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