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The Rawap: Echoes of Ancient Uyghur Music

Last Updated on 2023/11/24

The Rawap’s Journey from Kashgar to Courtrooms of the Qing Dynasty.

The Rawap, also known as Rewap or Lavap (热瓦普), is a traditional plucked string instrument predominantly found within the Uighur, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Tajik communities, and also in Afghanistan. It has a significant presence in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The instrument’s origins can be traced back to the 14th century, particularly to the southern Xinjiang city of Kashgar, as recorded in the historical text “Musician’s History” (乐师史) by Maula Esimutulamuji.

The traditional Kashgar version of the Rawap has an overall length of 130 centimeters and is commonly found across the north and south of the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang. This instrument was historically incorporated into the court music of the Hui nationality during the Qing Dynasty and was documented in the book “Lü Lv Zhengyi Hou Bian” (律吕正义后编) around 1746, where it was referred to as Lavap (喇巴卜).

The construction of the Rawap is distinct and intricate. Its resonator is hemispherical and typically made of wood, while the surface is covered with animal skins such as sheep, donkey, horse, or python skin. The instrument features a slender, curved neck, with silk strings tied at the top to act as frets. The neck and resonator are connected at two bent angles. The Rawap comes in various forms, with three, five, six, seven, eight, or nine strings, although traditionally it used gut strings. Today, silk strings are more common. The melody is usually played on the outermost string, with the remaining strings serving as sympathetic strings, resonating with the melody.

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