Perhat Khaliq is most famous for appearing on “The Voice of China” in 2014, earning him millions of fans worldwide and bringing the sound of Uyghur to the forefront of mainstream media.
The audience today were fervent and raring for the performance to start, and promptly cheered and burst into applause when Khaliq arrived onstage. Admittedly, this is the first time I experienced Khaliq in action, and despite not knowing the language (there were surtitles at the side of the stage in English and Mandarin), I found the performance highly engaging and stimulating.
Much of the music was similar to older Chinese rock standards you hear during a K-session, and Khaliq’s voice is able to take audiences on a journey from quiet to loud, from a ballad to a rant, and it’s absolutely magical. At some point, Khaliq’s wife came onstage to join him in a duet, and together, created some truly haunting music. Most of the songs’ content appears simple enough, singing about the Urghyur landscape and comparing life to it, but the lyrics are enhanced by the traditional instruments used by Qetiq combined with the modern sounds of electric guitars and a drum kit.
In particular, let’s talk about the song ‘Gittarin’ (Guitar), where Khaliq sings about his guitar and personifies it, describing how it’s been with him every step of the way, to the point where it was even happier than him on his marriage day. It’s hard to describe, because the lyrics are deceptively basic, but there’s a whole instrumental rift after the first chorus that revs up the energy of the song and gives it a sense of urgency and importance that calls attention to just how much this guitar means to him.
Khaliq wasn’t the only talent onstage that night however, as both his wife and keyboardist took to the stage to perform a traditional dance during one of the songs, ebbing and flowing with smooth movements to the tunes. One of the other members ended up doing a solo song, taking on a traditional Kazakh improvisational method of singing, lowering his voice to an unimaginable growl, feral and hypnotic with its consistent rhythm, while still playing a traditional string instrument resembling a guitar with a lengthy neck. Finally, Khaliq’s drummer was introduced properly in the final song, and he took to the spotlight, engaging in a nearly five minute long drum solo. Just when the audience thought it was over, he continued drumming the mics, the floor, and even a dustbin he brought out from backstage, akin to STOMP!, leading to a rousing burst of applause from the audience.
All in all, tonight my eyes were opened to the magic of Perhat Khaliq and the Qetiq band. If bands like Iceland’s Sigur Ros, known for singing in Icelandic and made up languages on occasion, can transcend language barriers with their atmospheric music, then surely it’s time for the spotlight to shift to our Asian brethren, if there are talents like Khaliq around with just as much heart and spirit. A great night spent discovering the beauty of hybrid indigenous/modern music, and a worthy addition to this year’s edition of the O.P.E.N.
We wish Khaliq and the Qetiq band all the best as they head to their next destination, winning new hearts and ears with their amazing sound.
Check out the rest of the festivities at the O.P.E.N. here!