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Multiethnic accordion band keeps folk songs alive in Xinjiang
2020-09-28 source:Xinhua
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For the 13 members of the Liuxing Street Ethnic Solidarity Accordion Band, rehearsals and performances at a famous local accordion museum in the city of Yining, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, have become a daily routine.

Most band members, with an average age of around 60, are accordion teachers, theater actors, folk singers or music teachers. They come from 13 different ethnic groups including Uygur, Kazak and Xibo.

Sixty-two-year-old Alexander Sergeevich Zazulin, an ethnic Russian, is the leader of the accordion band. Influenced by his father, Alexander began learning to play -- and even repair -- accordions at the age of nine.

In the 1980s, Alexander inherited his father's business and ran an accordion repair shop in Yining. He has since encountered many accordion lovers.

One such individual is Hazartola Enivar. He first met Alexander in 1989 when he visited the shop to repair his accordion.

"Alexander's repair skills are unique. So are his playing skills. We often play music of different ethnic groups to amuse guests and neighbors at the small shop," said Hazartola, of the Tatar ethnic group. "They even join us. We therefore got the nickname 'Repair Shop Accordion Band.'"

Alexander also collects accordions. He bought his first accordion at 15, and it cost him all the money he had saved from fishing and months of part-time jobs.

At first, Alexander found broken accordions across Xinjiang, bringing them home to repair. He soon began purchasing antique instruments from overseas.

Having spent his life dealing with accordions, he invested all his savings in the establishment of a small museum to display his collection a few years ago. He covered every available surface with instruments, even the ceiling, but some still had to be kept in boxes.

In 2019, the Yining municipal government invested over 3.6 million yuan (around 532,000 U.S. dollars) in the construction of the current accordion museum for Alexander to display his collection. With an area of 1,200 square meters, the museum now preserves more than 800 accordions from over 20 countries.

The museum was opened to the public in March 2019. The Liuxing Street Ethnic Solidarity Accordion Band was also officially set up at that time, with members expanding to 13, including Hazartola.

The museum instantly became a local landmark, serving as a stage for the multi-ethnic band to rehearse, perform and teach the public about the instrument.

More than 200 people visit the museum and watch the performances every day, said Alexander. "Music is contagious."

"We are not a professional band. Many of the members haven't studied music, but we can play a new song after two days of rehearsal," he said.

The accordion band's fame has spread beyond Xinjiang.

They have been invited to perform at a tourism promotion event in east China's Jiangsu Province and to participate in a folk song competition in Beijing.

Alexander hopes his band will see more people of different ethnic groups join to play more folk songs, and that they will have more opportunities to perform around the world in the future.

"We all grew up in Xinjiang and know its beauty. We want more people to learn about the place, people and culture through our songs," he said.