Xingjiang Mukan Art Ensemble

Chabbiat Mukam

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China is a much larger and more diverse country than most Westerners realize. Many are likely not aware of the sizable Islamic cultures in its western provinces, although a clearer picture was developed thanks to the Silk Road music series. The music performed here by the Xingjiang Mukam Art Ensemble is manifestly from the Islamic tradition, no matter where the political boundary may be drawn that places the musicians in China. The dozen or so musicians involved play a variety of plucked or bowed stringed instruments and percussion, creating music not very different in character from that of Afghanistan or Turkey, for example. It's tightly arranged with lovely back and forths between the male and female singers, riding gracefully on the skittering string lines and tossing ebullient whoops with abandon. It's in the vocal melodies more than anywhere that one can hear traces of traditional Chinese songs. That tinge is one of the aspects of this music that gives it a unique identity and makes this recording a valuable find for fans of either Middle Eastern or Chinese music. As usual with King's World Music Library, the disc is beautifully recorded with excellent liner notes. Recommended.

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