Abdurehim Heyit, hailed by many Uyghurs as the Dutar King, was born in 1964 in Kashgar. Heyit became a much-loved singer, virtuoso performer on the Uyghur dutar (traditional long-necked two-stringed lute) and composer of numerous songs. He studied at Kashgar Arts College and worked in the prestigious Central Nationalities Ensemble in Beijing between 1986 and 1993 before returning to Urumchi to join the Xinjiang Song-and-Dance Troupe, where he performed many songs promoting unity and friendship among the peoples of China.
“He was a professional musician. He was employed by the state troupes. It was his job to perform in the Uyghur language and represent Uyghur culture and history. It was his job to sing songs that people loved to listen to. He was a true peoples’ artist. In Kashgar, the street food sellers used to copy his cassettes and play them, because they loved his versions of the old folk songs.
He also independently released a series of solo CDs featuring Uyghur folk songs and his own compositions, and became a popular and influential figure among Uyghur audiences, as well as a leading exponent of the “new folk” style of the 1990s. He released his entire back catalogue in 2011 with the prestigious Nationalities Recording Company on a 9-CD collection called “Duttarim” (My Dutar).
He was detained by the Chinese authorities in 2017.
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