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

But even this mirthful collapse of old Kurban into joke does not end here: other “lesser people’s” meet the same fate. In the same vein, the CCTV (Chinese) New Year’s lianhuan wanhui for Feb. 2000 figured a one-size-fits-all roundup of all 56 Minorities’ iconic song-and-dance “hits” at 2 mins length each, called “56 New Years’ Best Wishes”, in which all (even Han) shows declined into pure cabaret: all becomes stereotypes, performed exclusively by Han Chinese entertainers, mainly in chorus-line girlie show format. The final coup de grace for National Musics as symbolic summation of imperial oneness comes in the autumn of 2009, when 56 “minorities solidarity columns (tuanlian zhu)” were installed around the fringe of Tiananmen Square, each with a painted carving of a man-woman dance pair on the inner side. Needless to say, “public opinion” demanded their quick removal once the festivities were concluded….

If there remains anything from the traditions of Soviet dance-show, it comes, oddly enough, from the accordion: that purveyor of nowhere-in-particular acoustical atmosphere that undermined the apparent diversities of individual “national” dances still exhibiting pluralism via costume and rhythm, but by the ’50s simplified over mashed into shapeless continuity by the ever-portable accordion accompaniment.

In (Russian) historical context, that instrument – very prominent in this extract – of course brought its own justification with it: for Red Army entertainers whipping up ad hoc nighttime camp shows quite naturally fell back on its organ-like one-sound-fits-all-sound resonance. But as a presence in the full-dress music hall theatre, it was not a pis aller: rather, it becomes a signal of distancing from the “genuine”, “raw flavor” sound that went into the fabrication of Nationalities’ performances. And as such collaborates in another aspect of unification-via-artifice: the superimposition of the same rhythmic and kneedance leap pacing emanating from Cossack folkdance as a kind of unifying trope to underscore the unity beneath the apparent diversity.

But – and here we turn back to Maoist China – if the overlay symbolized by the accordion was still authentic as a reminder of Army-on-the-move in Stalinist Russia, that could scarcely have been the case where the ad hoc sound of the accordion takes over in the CCTV showtime “tour” of China’s OWN National regions: for PLA entertainment ensembles did not use that instrument, nor train in its use by others.

So the squeaking, precariously thin voice of the accordionic “synthesizer” – (certainly NOT at all in place in the Uyghur/Maqam orchestra , backed by the tamboura/panduri, a kind of backwoods Khazakh balalaika specifically mentioned in the lyrics and illustrated in the (1978) iconic painting of “Uncle Kurban” – see below) courses through the sound system bearing a message of withdrawal or commodifying indifference. Why with that iconic Central Asian proto-guitar featured in the now famous 1978 painting of Kurban’s pilgrimage, is the backsound delivered by the (invisible) piping of that most bland of instruments?

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