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Traveling troupe brings joy to Xinjiang prairie

By Xinhua in Urumuqi | China Daily | Updated: 2016-07-08 11:29

Traveling troupe brings joy to Xinjiang prairie

The Ulan Muqir, or Red Bud Troupe, was set up in 1965 to boost advance of folk art

It was still early in the morning, but Purbu could not sleep at the thought of the arrival of the Ulan Muqir, or traveling troupe, later that day.

He had invited the performers, who have been entertaining nomadic herdsmen in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region for 50 years, for a celebration.

Ulan Muqir literally translates as Red Bud Troupe, and is the Mongolian name for the artists who travel from one grazing site to another to perform for those who live in some of China's most remote areas.

As a part of the government's drive to boost folk art development, in 1965 an Ulan Muqir was established in the Bortala Mongolian autonomous prefecture's Wenquan county, which borders Kazakhstan in the northwest.

"Once invited, Ulan Muqir will never let down their audience," said Bayinbat, 36, head of the troupe, who brought 20 performers to Purbu's event.

The troupe has 27 members in total, most from rural areas. They used to travel on horseback before infrastructure improvements made other transportation methods more feasible.

Siqin, 31, remembers what it was like when she joined the troupe 11 years ago. "Sometimes we had to walk for tens of kilometers carrying all our luggage - there was often no road surface at all," she said.

"Today we can rent a bus or a truck. It's much better."

But unexpected changes in weather can still hamper progress. On the way to Purbu's home, the troupe were caught in a sudden downpour, which turned the track they were traveling on to mud. It took their bus two hours to complete the 50-km-long trip.

"As is often the case, it might suddenly start to rain when we sing," Bayinbat said, "Our hands get frozen in winter."

The performers' perseverance is appreciated by their audience of hospitable herdsmen, who call Ulan Muqir artists "our children".

When the troupe neared their destination for Purbu's event, they were surprised to find a herdsman sent by the host waiting for them near a flooded road. The man had been waiting there since early in the morning.

Led by their guide, the troupe arrived at the party site at noon. They barely had any time to enjoy the lamb, rice and milk tea the herdsmen had prepared for them, before they began to sing folk songs, dance and play instruments.

There are 92 villages and grazing sites in Wenquan county, according to Bayinbat. It takes the Ulan Muqir about a year to tour all of them, playing some of the 1,000 or so songs and dances they have composed over the past five decades as they go.




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