Omnidance Update: Cabaret Show, 1999: “Uncle Kurban قربان‎ تولوم and the Uyghurs”

then on into oblivion and racialist satire….

* * * *

Minstrel show humor remains front and center in this next sequence too.

Except with a difference. This performance is from later: and is very much institutionalized output, manufactured at and distributed from “the center”. (Meaning the PLA Propaganda bureaucracy). No pretence here of amateur performance, of accidental bumbling, of Major Message somehow garbled at the basement rehearsal level. Those now scrubbed away devices might presumably have been felt appropriate to reverse what was sensed as a gathering tide of popular disillusion with the forced-march pace of collectivization and its grandiose claims. Here, with the ups and downs of the 60s long behind, the humor switches from coy irreverence to boisterous undermining of Zhou Enlai inspired Minorities’ self-inflation as symbolic or ritual players in the world of song and dance – something we saw at its peak in the East is Red (1964) “omnidance” suite. (See post of January 1 2012 With the only half-true Uyghur countenance in the show that of Kerim 克里木 ( 1941), a PLA song+dance recruit from age 11, and star fusion performer since the late 1950s, it is strictly Chinese show: the rest, prophetically, are Han Chinese – making the show a true (cross-dressed) ‘ol style Minstrel performance.

Sir (Lord) Kerim

"Kerim Effendi", PLA recruited Sinophone Uyghur

By now (35 years after East is Red, and 20 years into Deng’s glasnost), no regime-legitimizing political game is on stage, only an Army apercu that the (after all) overwhelmingly Sinophonic audience of that all-powerful new medium, the TV spectacular, had grown impatient with Minority-Coddling (a parallel to what happened in the US in backlash to the civil rights movement…). The form of “all-God’s chillun'” was still out there but, as the revised label suggests, there was more and more a sense of “enough”, a mood of snicker.

Thus the 1999 (50th anniversary) version of the (1958) Uncle Kurban declines with no embarrassment into cabaret, of the officially sanctioned variety (occasion+wanhui or “nightshow”). The cabaret element in this 1999 take is signaled by the use of the interruptive female omnisong query midway in the last solo line, eye-lashes fluttering, about “what could this be?” A device that was a signature element in Li Jinhui’s 明星歌舞团 feature number 桃花江(Peachblossom River) of ca. 1928-9 vintage – the song that provoked the onset of the label “Yellow Music” and Nie Er’s self-publicized secession from Li’s troupe. (for the now innocuous sounding song, see

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