From Spiritual Soundscape to Musical Soundscape: Nurjan Hapiz, a brother who sings his beliefs
Mukaddas Mijit (University of Paris, Nanterre, France)
In the city of Ghulja in the Ili Valley, the Islamic soundscape was entirely Sufi before 1950. In the memories of people who experienced this period, zikr and mawlid were fundamental to religious practice in this region.
Several khaniqa (Sufi gathering houses) were the essence of the social structure of Ghulja. People gathered in these holy places at least once a week to pray, prepare and eat holy food: khaniqa éshi. For more rigorous followers/brothers, the khaniqa were the places where they gathered every day to listen to beautiful talqin (solo chanting of spiritual poetry), moving their body to the rhythms of zikr which led them into ecstasy.
The unusual life story of one of the last Sufi brothers of Ghulja, Nurjan Hapiz, provides an overview of spiritual life in this particular town in the north of the Uyghur region; the function of these khaniqa, the question of initiation, the practice of talqin, transmission, etc.
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, all Sufi activities were banned, the holy books were burned andkhaniqa were demolished. I will discuss how Nurjan Hapiz’s beliefs and knowledge survived these dark moments in the history of Sufism. I will analyze how Sufism came through prohibition and how it actively changed its form by becoming a part of the Uyghur musical landscape. We will question how this forbidden practice became present in Uyghur traditional music and how people talk about it nowadays.