A showcase of soulful Uighur rock music

Singer Perhat Khaliq had a compelling stage presence.
Singer Perhat Khaliq had a compelling stage presence. PHOTO: ALISON LOW



The O.P.E.N.

Victoria Theatre/Thursday

Uighur singer Perhat Khaliq is perhaps best known for coming in second in the 2014 season of the reality singing contest The Voice Of China. His spare, emotional rendition of the Mandarin karaoke favourite Why Are You Willing To Let Me Suffer became a new classic cover version.

Known for his raspy, shredded vocals and raw emotional delivery, he may have broken into the mainstream performing in Chinese, but his concert was to showcase the rich, soulful rock music from his people, the Uighurs, one of the ethnic minority groups living in Xinjiang, China.

In his 75-minute set, he only performed Why and one other Mandarin song, Gift. The rest were in Uighur, with English and Chinese surtitles provided for the lyrics.

Dressed in black and sporting a shaved head, Perhat had a compelling stage presence.

Audiences may know little about Uighur life, but he painted a vivid, moving picture of its geographical contours and culture. Without a shred of artifice, he sang songs about working folk, the tenderness of women and the pain of love.

His parents were steel factory workers, and Ishchi was a bluesy ode to the woes of the labour class.

On Tush Naxshisi, he lamented: "The roads of Atush are cruel." On Shukri Didim, he sang of his love for his late parents and his gratitude for all that he had been given in life.

Other tracks allude to Xinjiang province's vast and beautiful landscape. At one point, he evoked "the blue sky above, the silent plateau" and you could imagine that his was a voice burnished by fierce desert winds and nourished by bright blue skies.

He was joined by his wife Pazilet Tursun on several numbers and on Tarim, their voices, one sweet and one weathered, were entwined to moving effect.

His band, Qetiq, entertained with their musical virtuosity as they added a sheen of contemporary rock to traditional Uighur and Kazakh music.

There was a country Western hillbilly vibe to some of the material, including the rollicking Qara Jorgha, which seemed to mimic the steady galloping of a horse with its rhythmic beat.

The band members were multi- talented. The keyboardist interpreted for Perhat when he spoke in Uighur and the drummer, in an entertaining extended solo, made his way around the stage and drummed on random surfaces as though he was a runaway member of the percussion show Stomp.

It did not matter that one did not understand the Uighur language, Perhat's magnetic voice and the peerless music-making were enough to cast a spell.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'A showcase of soulful Uighur rock music'. Print Edition | Subscribe