Six City


Last Friday, my friend GA invited me along with a few friends to a "hip-hop party" in the Daximen district of Urumqi. Held every week, this venue hosts a few deejays who spin American rap and reggaeton hits. At about 1 am Xinjiang time, local celebrity rappers Six City and dance crew DSP usually take the stage for a short gig. We ducked into the Bird's Nest slightly before 10 pm, a seedy club of low ceilings, papered with posters of anime heroines. Nonsensical neon signs-- which spelled out "Feel the Passion," "Me Your Mind," "Burning Desires," and so on-- lit the room. We took our seats in some lip-shaped chairs, waiting for the club to fill up slowly with Uyghur hipsters and more awkward expats. Suddenly, some Chinese police surrounded our table and demanded that we show our identification. The only officer who could speak English barked out orders-- "Show us your passports now! N-A-W!" he said. Obviously, the Urumqi police force could benefit from more night classes in oral English. CCG, my old classmate visiting from Nanjing, and I dutifully handed over our documents. Due to my nervousness, I strung together some coherent sentences in Chinese, though the cops were reluctant to believe I was a teacher, thinking instead that I was a foreign student, or perhaps even worse, a shady lady.
The police continued berating us since one of other friends RWW had forgotten his passport. "This is our country's love! This is our country's love," the officer insisted. It took me a second to realize he meant to say law. At this point, RWW replied as calmly as he could, "Dude, I totally respect your country's law." Meanwhile, the cops rounded up two other misbehaving foreigners, deejays from Cameroon whose sheer hulk and rebellious retorts scared the scrawny lead officer into silence. The police escorted the three foreigners out, along with MG who played translator to this charade gone horribly awry. We anxiously waited for the next two hours as the police were to interrogate our friends at the station. In fact, the cops abandoned them to grab a midnight dinner, leaving the "suspects" to their own devices for over an hour! Typically, Urumqi charges naughty expats 500 kuai for not carrying IDs, but the police were so intimidated by the deejays, they released everyone without any fines. RWW and MG returned just in time to see Six City start their set.

Six City formed a couple of years ago and rap in Uyghur, with a few interjections in Mandarin and English. They take their name from the six cities of the medieval Uyghur kingdom. (In an interview, one of the musicians lists them as Aksu, Ghulja, Kashgar, Khotan, Korla, and Kuqa, though historians seem to disagree about this.) Mostly, the band complains about day-to-day troubles that everyone faces in their songs, over addictive hooks and fast lyrics. "Hurra Hurra," their biggest hit, however, glorifies Uyghur soccer culture. Recently, hip-hop has become a popular form of self-expression among China's underground youth, though given its subversive edge and elitist attitudes, the genre has not emerged onto the mainstream music scene. In Urumqi, at least, the hip-hop community has yet to grow out of its incipient stages; the artists and their audience, who range from middle school to college age, only have listened to this kind of music for a few years and take inspiration from more accepted American acts like Eminem. Everyone at the Bird's Nest was Uyghur, aside from random pockets of Americans, Kazakhstanis, and Russians, a scene that contrasts with the hip-hop phenomenon outside of Xinjiang, largely a Han-Chinese movement. After Six City performed the catchy song "6 Dolkun" as well as some new material, a dancer from DSP busted some unimpressive moves. Unfortunately, the night devolved as a large brawl broke out near the bar, over (what CCG and I guess as) DSP's shoddy performance.


Wow, they sing hip-hop. And in Uighur!? I thought the Chinese had banned the teaching of the Uighur language in school.

I wonder whether any of the Uighur patrons in Bird Nest's, or the singers of the Six City, complained about the Western "cultural genocide" of the Uighur culture, or is Okay since it's Western culture doing the "culture genocide"?

I would have loved to watch the Uighurs singing some traditional folk songs, dressing in their traditional dresses, to entertain us Westerners. (Why do we want to listen to more hip-hop songs, when our radio here is practically flooded with them.) But I guess as anyone in the 3rd world, it seems that none of these Uighur youths would be really interested in their own culture.

P.S. It's funny that they called the bar "Bird Nest's". I thought that glorifies the Chinese pride.

The Chinese certainly have not gone as far as to ban Uyghur language in school! The educational system is a little bit more nuanced in phasing out Uyghur. Uyghur-only schools, where Mandarin language is just one class, are being closed this year. However, there are still bilingual schools in which the humanities are taught in Uyghur, and Mandarin-only schools which Uyghur students attend.

As for traditional Uyghur song and dance... that still happens often. It's just the main paradigm in which Chinese and foreign tourists view Uyghurs, often as quaint minority entertainment. So, I wanted to share what everyday Uyghurs like, which unfortunately is American-inspired. At least, they added their own twist to it!