The Politics of Pop: The Rise and Repression of Uyghur Music in China

The Voice of the Silk Road logo

By Elise Anderson
MAY 31, 2020

On the evening of September 7, 2014, I sneaked into an auditorium on the campus of the Xinjiang Arts Institute in Ürümchi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. Over the course of several preceding days, I’d watched as crews from Xinjiang Television (XJTV) poured in and out of the auditorium, working to transform the space from its everyday function as a student performance venue into a much more exciting, if temporary, role as the set for the Voice of the Silk Road, a new reality singing competition. I wanted to see firsthand what had been going on.

Inside the auditorium, young crew members scurried around, yelling at one another as they built out the red, rotating judges’ chairs now iconic to the Voice franchise. A member of the production team stood center stage, clipboard in hand. Dozens of would-be pop stars were sitting in the stadium-style seats, waiting to learn about their upcoming blind auditions. The first round of the show would be filmed in front of a live audience at the Arts Institute over the course of several days in September and was slated to air on XJTV-2 later that fall.

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