Xinjiang's Most Popular Song: Oynasun

Xinjiang’s Most Popular Song [Video]: Oynasun

September 26 | 22 Comments

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Xinjiang, chances are you’ve heard this song more times than you can count. It is, in my opinion, the most popular song in Xinjiang.

How popular, you ask? It’s so well known that even Han Chinese – most of whom can’t speak the Uyghur language – can sing along and know the meaning of the words. I find myself humming the tune every once in a while for no reason as well.

Check out the video yourself and see if you recognize it:

Oddly, the three women in this video aren’t from Xinjiang. They are Uyghur from Uzbekistan and they represent the finest of what is Uyghur pop. The trio, named Shahrizoda (شهريزاده), have quite a few other well-known songs, but this is by far the most common.

So…what do you think?

Shahrizoda, a Uzbek Uyghur trio of singers originally from Xinjiang, China

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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  1. I was once in a department store in Hong kong and they had this VCD playing on all the TV’s. I started singing and dancing along. It took me a while to convince the sales ladies that I wasn’t really Uyghur. But I do love this song.

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    Josh on September 27th, 2011 at 8:25 am

    Ha! That’s hilarious. I’ve never heard the song outside of Xinjiang – and I’m quite sure that I would never be mistaken for a Uyghur. Kudos to you!

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    swall on November 2nd, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Yay! I heard this song in 2011 in Beijing, group of few older people were dancing in Houhai. I made small video so I was watching it many times, and now I can’t believe finally I found this song! Thanks!

    Josh Summers on November 3rd, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    My pleasure! Glad you found it :)

  2. So these Uzbek-Uyghurs have introduced the HAN to Turkish pop music! nice use of “oynasin”=”let him/her play”

    This sounds like 100’s of Turkish pop songs over the last many decades, e.g. “hadi bakalim” from 1991, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcRXbjiyhrM for a broadcast from Turk Television International to Eurasia.

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    Josh on September 27th, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Ah yes, I have no doubt. Pretty much all American pop songs sound the same too. There’s a reason they’re “popular”, you know?

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  3. Part of Shahrizoda’s popularity among Hans is that they sing Uyghur folksongs that Wang Luobin collected in Xinjiang, translated into Chinese, and disseminated as essentially “Chinese” folksongs. “Alamuhan” (a Chinese approximation of “Almihan”) is one good example; the group actually sings it in Chinese (it’s horrible, but Chinese nonetheless). You can also hear the 12 Girls Band play the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTw2PVVquwo. Also note that it is possible to find various “Uyghur versions” by going to YouTube and searching “Almihan”/”Almixan”; my favorite is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQRXMyPk3W8. If you’re interested in reading more about the Wang Luobin/Uyghur folk music phenomenon, check out Rachel Harris’ article on the topic.

    Though Shahrizoda is popular, I would never go so far as to say that they’re the finest of what Uyghur pop music has to offer. Sure, some of their songs are widely played, but that’s mostly because those songs are from a pre-existing folk repertoire with which various people are familiar (this is related to my point above). Their pronunciation of Uyghur is pretty horrible, and while there are obvious reasons for that, it still bothers a lot of the Uyghurs I know that they mess with lyrics and words so much. They also alter melodies in ways that aren’t quite as pleasing from an aesthetic standpoint.

    Abdullah Abdurehim, Mominjan Ablikim: these are just couple of the pop music greats in Xinjiang today. I think the title of most beloved, most played, most influential Uyghur pop musician has to go to Abdullah Abdurehim, hands down. Uyghurs LOVE him, and for a variety of reasons. Some of the reasons I’ve heard? He’s multi-talented, as he studied acting at the Arts Institute and also can sing various styles of traditional and popular music. He’s gracious to his many adoring fans, something that was confirmed when I saw him in concert in Urumchi in 2010. He’s apparently a devoted father and husband, which a number of my female Uyghur friends adore. And he’s exceptionally prolific–check out any Uyghur music shop to see that one.

    [Reply]

    Josh on September 27th, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Thanks so much for your comment, EMA…very informative! I guess I might have been overstating things by saying that they’re the “finest of what Uyghur pop music has to offer”, but I would say that (according to my experience), they are one of the very few groups that are recognized all across the province, by Uyghur and Han alike.

    I’ll look up Abdullah Abdurehim sometime later this week. I have VCD’s of a couple Uyghur musicians that were given to me by friends and I think he might be one of them.

    [Reply]

    Rudy on September 28th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    How about Hoxur Kari? (I hope I don’t spell it wrong) I have heard some of his songs in youtube, they’re really nice.

    I’m not sure if Shahrizoda are really uyghurs, but both uyghurs and uzbeks are still related, isn’t it?

    There is also a girl trio called Gul Yaru. Unlike Shahrizoda, this trio is really from xinjiang as far as I know.

    Josh, are you still living in xinjiang? If so, could you tell me what is the popular music trend among uyghur youths currently? First when I acquainted with uyghur musics (which mostly I heard on youtube), I thought uyghurs songs are mostly traditional. But not until I saw this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GfZ8Dk8m71Q.

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  4. I heard this before. I loved it. When I was in Turpan, my wonderful uygur’s tour guide recommended them–sorry that I didn’t get to buy any wonderful pop uygur music. Next trip!

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    Josh on October 6th, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it! Maybe one of these days I’ll try to give away a few copies of Uyghur pop music CD’s as a prize on the site…I’ll let you know!

    [Reply]

    Peter Gong on October 6th, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    How cool that would be. That was one thing I want

  5. Even here in Yunnan they play Shahridzoda’s version of Oynasun in public parks where middle aged Chinese women gather to dance in the evenings. It still seems to be the go-to booty shakin tune all over.
    Also Josh, don’t forget these eight, half hour podcasts of Xinjiang music (pop, folk and field recordings) I put together a few years back are still online and free for the downloading here:
    http://compound-eye.org/rogc/xinjiang/xj-radio/mffts-mixes/

    [Reply]

    Rudy on December 25th, 2011 at 8:18 am

    Hi fausto,

    When will you release the “Music Furthest from the Sea – Vol. 2”?

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  6. I am pretty sure Shahrizoda are Uzbek girls not Uyghur. But considering the similarities between Uzbeks and Uyghurs, I am not surprised that White People can’t tell the difference

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    Xemit on November 7th, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I am pretty sure that ethnicity has nothing to do with citizenship. But considering the confusion created by the Party between these notions, I am not surprised that Yellow People can’t tell the difference.

    Gosh, I hope my reply is dumb enough…

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  7. The closest thing I’ve experienced to Xinjiang was my two years of infancy in Beijing, and even I’ve heard this song… lol

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  8. It is simply beautiful. I am of Chinese background Raised in Canada. As I learn more about Xinjiang and the Uyghurs, I am completely mesmerized by the culture. For that matter, the whole of Central Asia. My wife is ethnic Russian born and raised in Tajiskistan. When I visited Russia the first time, some Central Asians called me brother. God, it was an honour. I hope the Chinese government do not destroy the Uyghur culture, language and the superb natural beauty of that region. I hope the hans and the uyghurs can co-exist in mutual respect and peace.

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