On a lighter note, I have been waiting in Beijing for a few days for my mother to come visit. In that time I got to know the owner of a Uighur restaurant and they invited me to hear one of their friends sing and dance in the traditional Uigher style. So I hopped in the van with them the next day and we got out at the headquarters for CCTV, China’s version of the BBC. Their friend was going to be on Shining Star Path, a knockoff of American Idol and pretty big here.
Me and about 10 other college students from the Central University of Nationalities where his cheering section. He got up in the first round and sang a Chinese pop song like a pro. But when the host pulled him back on stage to ask questions the weirdness started.
After the singer was introduced he said “Salam Alekum…I am a proud Uighur man and I hope you enjoyed my performance.” All in Uighur, which drew a few gasps and a look of confusion on the hosts face. Then he repeated himself in Uighur just to be clear. This made our little section break out in whoops and mad clapping. The host asked if he spoke Chinese, and he switched into Chinese effortlessly. It might have been scripted but I like to think it was a small act of rebellion.
So the singer made it through the first singing round and the second dancing round seemed locked up. The other performers did some really bad interpretive dancing and hip-hop rip-offs. While our singer brought half of our crowd to its feet and everyone started dancing on the stage like it was a family get-together.
This is where I made my first appearance on national Chinese television. When the host went around asking for opinions my friends were prodding me to raise my hand. I was called on and stuttered a few words in Chinese, then switched to Uighur, and finally fell back to English, which thankfully my Kazakh friend sitting beside me translated.
Though our Uighur singer brought the crowd to its feet it wasn’t good enough for the judges and he was voted out in the second round. Damn It. End of story.
If anyone living in China wants to see it: