The Saniye Ismail Ensemble /The Onikki Muqams of Central Asia/Kazakhstan


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Saniye Ismail: voice and dotar lute

Marat Noruzov: tambour

Kurvanzhan Danakhun: ravap (guitar)

Yedgor Sobirov: dap (percussion)

Known in Chinese texts since ancient times, Uighur music gave birth in the 15th century to a classical tradition, the muqam, strongly influenced by Islamic civilisation. Its canonical repertoire, called Onikki muqam, is still practised in this region of the world and in neighbouring countries where people present these magnificent traditions listed as intangible heritage by UNESCO. Saniye Ismail and her musicians are among its most valuable proponents.

This is music of great richness and remarkable originality. It has its roots in a brilliant cultural past, accumulating elements of ancient Indo-Iranian civilisations (Tocharian, Sogdian), Buddhism, Manichaeism, Turkic culture and finally Islam. The affinities between these peoples is found in their music, notably in its composition, instruments, genres and usage. One of the common aspects is the structure of the repertoire in great suites comparable to the Arabo-Andalusian nuba or the Tajik-Uzbek shash maqâm. The influence of Muslim culture perhaps contributed to this structure and the systemisation of the repertoire.

Saniye Ismail was born in the Uighur region of Kazakhstan and grew up in this tradition in a  musical family. Later, she was trained by great singers such as Ayshemgul Memet in Ürümqi, perfecting the art of interpretation.