Album of the week for anyone who loves central Asian music, especially the kind that gets blasted across bazaars, from who let the camel loose?, one of a couple of blogs from Xinjiang in far western China, so far west that it’s only really possible to think of it as China if you can suspend laughing for a bit while imagining Turkey is part of Belgium. The best thing is, it’s free, as in something-for-nothing. Download it here: Music Furthest From the Sea Vol. 1, and check out the excellent Xinjiang blog The Opposite End of China 中国的另一端 while you’re at it.
Officially labeled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, this northwestern expanse of the P. R. C. contains some of the most disorienting cultural terrain that any visitor expecting “China” will experience, as the Uyghur are distinct ethnically, culturally, linguistically and historically from the land that governs.
Among modern regional cultivations is a prolific, fantastically vibrant popular music scene sadly little known outside this territory. A stroll down my street for example, past the side by side VCD shops and through swarming street bazaars, charms you with an ear splitting, walking collage of the most deliciously infectious local pop sounds. Traditional instruments, heavy drums, local flavor Casiotone and powerful, ornamented vocals deliver an unequivocally unique fruit of these lands – a land that at once processes it’s place within these borders while maintaining a fixed grip on a continually challenged cultural identity.
For this collection, I simply went out into the street…into tiny, booth sized shops and to carts selling pirated discs; listened to and bought the ones that I, A: thought well represented part of the recent local soundscape; B: just really dug; or C: took a chance on because they were cheap.
There’s a mixture of production value here, but I felt it fair to represent from the spectrum one hears, which ranges from polished, studio recordings to a notch barely above karaoke machine productions. Most of these songs are Uyghur, with the few exceptions of the occasional Uzbek artists within who are also very popular here. So there you go, in the spirit of sharing, a gift from your man in the city furthest from the sea!
I hope you enjoy! -FC
brought to you by: the Royal Oculus & Gramophone Company – Ürümqi, PRC. 2007