Even in the Rain: Uyghur Music in Modern China

Hardback: $70.00
ISBN-13: 9780824895013
Published: August 2023
Paperback: $28.00
ISBN-13: 9780824895617
Published: August 2023

Additional Information

264 pages | 12 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • Even in the Rain: Uyghur Music in Modern China explores music as constitutive of Uyghur cultural and social life where subaltern experiences of ethnicity, race, and nationhood are indexed. A Central Asian Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim people, the Uyghur are identified in China as one of the fifty-five officially designated “minority nationalities.” Drawing on extensive fieldwork in the Uyghur homeland in the far Chinese northwest, Chuen-Fung Wong focuses on aspects of Uyghur music making as it faces the state’s management of minority art expressions. Music serves as a metaphor of the Uyghur nation—as heritage (miras), culture (medeniyet), and tradition (en’ene)—while it struggles to survive, respond, and adapt to the Chinese state’s aggressive maneuvering and the broader intercultural influences that have shaped Uyghur performing arts in modern times. As the Uyghur and other non-Han peoples in China continue to be minoritized under the pretexts of multiculturalism and cultural enlightenment, local musicians and audiences react with a vast range of performing and listening approaches to engage assimilation, racism, and other grim realities of everyday life.

    Even in the Rain provides the political, historical, and theoretical context to address overlapping genres and soundscapes, which are bound by creative processes that have negotiated the state’s minority policy and the collective pursuit of identity. With a focus on the minoritized musical consciousness in Uyghur performance, especially on the ways in which Uyghur musicians encounter modernity under a colonial context, this book examines the cultivation of a unique musical deftness that has allowed musicians to move across the various localizing strategies and intercultural practices. Uyghur musical modernity should not be understood as the passive acceptance of outside influences—and certainly not the erasure of indigenous elements and national heritage. Local traditions and hegemonic influences sometimes appear to be more collaborating than conflicting, in that subaltern expressions actively opt to manifest in forms that are dominant and deemed universal. This timely and comprehensive analysis spans approximately seven decades of modern Uyghur musical life, during which musicians and audiences adopted an array of methods, experimenting with new identity formations to navigate life as often reluctant Chinese citizens.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Chuen-Fung Wong, Author

      Chuen-Fung Wong is associate professor of music at Macalester College.
    • Frederick Lau, Series Editor

      Frederick Lau is the chair and professor of ethnomusicology and director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Chuen-Fung Wong’s Even in the Rain offers a compelling examination of the dynamic interplay between tradition and modernity, national identity and global influences, and musical innovation and cultural preservation in the context of Uyghur music. With his insightful analysis, extensive fieldwork, and expertise in the Uyghur language and culture, Wong delivers a must-read book for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between music, society, and identity in contemporary inner Asia.
      —Gülnar Eziz, Harvard University
    • This is beautifully written, engaging, and richly detailed ethnography of Uyghur musical practices in Northwest China. The reader comes away with a nuanced understanding of musical change in Xinjiang through the last century, as musical modernism and the complexities of being an ethnic minority in China collide. Wong carefully dissects his own positioning as an ethnomusicologist from Hong Kong and writes with vulnerability about his ethnographic process. As careful as Wong is with his interlocutors’ voices, one can get a feel for the lives of the Uyghur musicians Wong works with. The stories, scenes of life in different parts of Xinjiang, and the descriptions of the music come through with vivid detail.
      —Margarethe Adams, Stony Brook University
    • In Even in the Rain Wong combines a fine grasp of theoretical approaches in ethnomusicology, relevant literature in Uyghur, Chinese and English, good ethnographic research, and sure-footed musical transcription and analysis. His analysis brings original material, careful research, and an authoritative voice to the topics of popular music and voice, and musical instruments and modernity. The book picks up the approaches of earlier scholarship and extends it into the twenty-first century, bringing together engagement with Uyghur national canons and staged performance, popular and folk music.
      —Rachel Harris, SOAS University of London
    • The book is the result of successful combination of fieldwork (no longer possible recently), sound understanding of world music, and profound studies on music traditions relevant to Central Asia. Not only is the book important for the studies of Uyghur music, but also in the merging of studies in various closely related but distinct traditions (Turkic, Persian and Arabic), against the predominant backdrop of Han-Chinese music and its Westernization. The book will be of interest to ethnomusicologists, certainly a must-read item for those who are interested in Central Asian music, Uyghur music, Xinjiang, musical instruments, and particularly relevant to political scientists.
      —Yu Siu Wah, The Chinese University of Hong Kong