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Uyghur Thriller Soundtrax

Bryan Tudor of Regina offers his musical travel experience to Soundtrax.

About a decade ago I was in Xinjiang, Western China, working with Uygur women on a micro-finance project.  One evening in Hotan, a remote small city where the Kunlun Mountains meet the Takla Makan desert, we heard through our translators (one from Uygur to Mandarin another from Mandarin to English!) that one of the women had a son who wanted to dance for us.  "Great," I thought, "We'll see some traditional Uygur dancing to the sound of traditional Uygur music."  But not so! 

The boy set up his boom box, played a Michael Jackson CD (I think it was Billie Jean!) and did Michael Jackson's dance moves that he had learned from watching the video.  He was really good! 

It was then that I realized just how much western pop culture had permeated the entire world, even to places I had thought to be relatively remote and untouched.  Now whenever I hear Billie Jean, that's the time and place that comes to my mind. 

Sameer Farooq's documentary on pop vs. traditional music among Uyghur perfformers is in the August 11 Dispatches program.  

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