chapter  6
The Quest for National Unity in Uyghur Popular Song
Barren Chickens, Stray Dogs, Fake Immortals and Thieves
ByJoanne N. Smith
Pages 28

This chapter focuses on Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim group living under Chinese political hegemony in an area currently known as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of Northwest China. The Uyghurs remain the largest of these groups, though the number of Han Chinese immigrants in the region is likely to surpass the number of Uyghurs in the near future. The concept of encouraging Uyghur national identity through cultural forms is not new in Xinjiang. The first popular-as-folk suggests a home-made, unmediated and often unpolished local form of music-making. The second popular-as-mass invokes contemporary forms of mass-produced and consumed music. One key to the success of popular music in conveying nationalist ideas is that it carries messages to the Uyghurs in their preferred cultural form. De Vos lists aesthetic cultural forms such as food, dress, music and song as one of a number of markers of cultural difference that might be selected by group members in the definition of their group identity.