China's ancient 'Twelve Muqam' music has been well preserved and passed on
Updated 22:42, 30-Jul-2019
Zheng Yibing , Shen Hui

China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is known for its vibrant music and ethnic dances dating back to ancient times.

The Twelve Muqam, which is known as the mother of Uygur music, is a musical form that consists of sung poetry, stories and music. Like other traditions in Xinjiang, the art is being passed on to future generations.

For 73-year-old Yusup, the art has never lost its appeal, even though he’s been playing it for more than 40 years.

“It’s the highest art form of Uygur people with 12 musical compositions, incorporating singing, dancing, folk classic music, poems and epic narratives,” he said.

The Twelve Muqam consists of more than 300 different melodies, some 4,000 lines of lyrics and takes around 24 hours to play in its entirety.

Its history can be traced back to ancient times.

Legend has it that in the 16th century, the poet and musician Amannisahan helped compile the music.

A hall built as a memorial to the poet and musician Amannisahan who helped compile the Twelve Muqam in the 16th century. /CGNT Photo

A hall built as a memorial to the poet and musician Amannisahan who helped compile the Twelve Muqam in the 16th century. /CGNT Photo

Now, it’s been well-preserved and inscribed as a national and world intangible cultural heritage.

“A lot of work has been done, including establishing procedures and centers for its protection and legacy. We are also provided with subsidies from the government to focus on our artistic pursuit,” Yusup said.

For artists like him, passing on the ancient music treasure to future generations is very important and he is lucky to find many followers.

Alimjan has been playing the Twelve Muqam for over 10 years. He said he needs more practice to become a skillful player.

"There is no limit to the pursuit of this art. With another 10 years’ practice, I might meet the expectations of my masters,” he said.

A Twelve Muqam performer. /CGTN Photo

A Twelve Muqam performer. /CGTN Photo

Munira is a dancer for the Twelve Muqam. She hopes that she could do more for this ancient art.

"Many people think that the Twelve Muqam is just a name of the song. And I hope that more people across the world would know it and love it also through our efforts,” she said.

Today, the Twelve Muqam is gaining more attention at festivals and special occasions in Xinjiang.

And people like Yusup and other practitioners are making an effort to pass on this ancient art performance with vitality.