Born in 1935 in Qumul, eastern Xinjiang, Ömar-Qari is one of the most prominent folk singers of Qumul naghmäliri (a repository of folk music). Visually impaired as a result of eye-disease experienced at a very young age, he learned singing Qumul folk songs from his step-grandmother Rozi-qiz. Rozi-qiz was a celebrated female singer at the last Qumul King Shah Maqsud (1864 – 1930)’s court. Ömar-Qari is also renowned for his mastery of playing various musical instruments, especially Qumul ghijek, the two-stringed fiddle - Listen to his Cappella solo here with selected lyrics translated into English.

Omer-Qari-with-his-grandson
Ömär-Qari's grandson listens to his grandfather sing at home, 2014

Do not desert the destitute,  

The minute you become a King, 

What makes a King does not diminish in you,  

If you choose to take one look to your side.

،تاشلىۋەتمەڭلەر گاداينى 

.پادىشا بولماقبىلەن 

،پاشالىق كەتمەس ئىلىكىڭدىن  

.بىر قىيا باققان بىلەن 

Resting on top of the white mulberry trees,  

My turtle dove coos happily, 

Sitting next to my darling lover, 

My heartbeats echo endlessly.  

،پاختىگىم كاككۇك قىلادۇ 

.ئاق جۈجەمنىڭ باشىدا 

،يۈرۈگۈم پوك پوك قىلادۇ جانىم جانىمەي

.يارغىناڭنىڭ قېشىدا ئايارەي 

How my heart burns, oh my love, 

Worse than the fat on meat that sizzles over the fire; 

Bother me no more, oh my beloved, 

What I have suffered is more than I could endure.  

،يۈرۈگۈم جىز جىز قىلادۇ جېنىم جېنىمەي

.گۆشدىكى ياغدىن بىتەر 

،سەن مېنى ئاۋارە قىلما جېنىم جېنىمەې 

.موشۇنچە كۈيگەنىم يىتەر ئايارەي   

Don’t abandon me, 

As I will be of use one day; 

Facing your enemy, 

I will be as brave hearted as a stone.  

،تاشلىۋەتمەڭلەر مېنى 

.بىر كۈن كېرەكلىك بولىمەن 

،دۈشمىنىڭنىڭ ئالدىدا 

.تاشدەك يۈرەكلىك بولىمەن 

Lamenting at night, sleep escapes me oh my love, 

This sleepless night befell me because of your betrayal, 

You tormented me, and made me miserable my beloved.

،ھېلى ئاللاخۇ دىسەم، كەمەس كۆزۈمنىڭ ئۇيقىسى 

.ئۇيقۇنى كەلتۈرمىگەن، بىۋاپا يار ساۋداسى 

.يار خاراب ئەتتىڭ مېنى،جىگەر كاۋاب ئەتتىڭ مېنى

I put a spell on my lover’s body, 

She twisted like a snake when I entered in her arms; 

How wretched you have made me my darling,  

Turning me into the likes of a burnt liver kebab. 

،ئەرۋىشىمنى چىلىۋلدىم مەن ئاداشنىڭ بويىغا جېنىم 

،ئوق يىلاندەك تولغۇنۇپ كىرسەم ئاداشنىڭ قوينىغا يەي

،يار خاراب ئەتتىڭ مېنى، جىگەر كاۋاب ئەتتىڭ مېنى  

،ۋاي ئاللا ھجىرەڭ رازى قول  

رەببىم ئاللا جىرەڭ خادى قول ئايىرەي 

I weave the love spell,  

To use as your watchband, 

Imprinting a blemish on my heart, 

The flame of this love is difficult to stand; 

My darling, you made me miserable,  

And a liver kebab I have become. 

،ئەرۋىشىمنى مەن توقۇر مەن، سائەتىڭگە باغ بولۇر جېنىم

.ئاشىق ئوتۇڭ يامان نىمە، ئاخىر يۈرەككە داغ بولۇر جېنىم

،يار خاراب ئەتتىڭ مېنى، جىگەر كاۋاب ئەتتىڭ مېنى  

،ۋاي ئاللا ھجىرەڭ رازى قول  

.رەببىم ئاللا ھجىرەڭ خادى قول ئايىرەي 

This is a beautiful room,  

Where Mamodixan rested once;i 

Over her neck hangs Zakir-Ghojam,ii 

Her waist wrapped in silk sash. 

،بۇ دالاڭ ئىيىجى دالاڭ، مەمودىخان ياتقان دالاڭ  

،بوينىدا زاكىر غوجام 

،بىلىدە زوچو پوتا ئاللا يارەي 

.قوينىدا زاكىر غوجا، ئاللا يارەي 

You are called Namän,  

Wandering around day and night;  

Squandering your time like this, 

No lady will turn her head; 

Oh Lord, nothing can be done when this suffering strikes.  

،سېنىڭ ئېتىڭ نامەن دۇر  

،شۇنداق يۈرسەڭ بولامدۇ  

،كىچە كۈندۈز تالادا، جۇگا ساڭا قارامدۇ 

،ئاللا يارەي  

كەگەن قازاغا چارى يوق ئاللەي 

My lover’s name is Bäxnisa,  

Long she combs her hair; 

If Namän falls in love with you, 

You could marry him without hesitation.  

،يارنىڭ ئېتى بەخنىسا  

،چاشنى ئۇزۇن تارىسا  

،يۈگۈرۈپ يۈگۈرۈپ تىگەرسەن  

.نەمەن ساڭا قارىسا  

When I reach the top of the high mountains, 

Let me plaster your mansion; 

If you have me in your heart,  

Let me be your consolation.   

،ئىگىز تاققا مەن چىقسام  

سارايىڭنى مەن سىپاي؛ 

،ئەگەر كۆڭلۆڭدە مەن بولسام  

ئۆزگۈنۈڭنى مەن سىپاي 

There comes the dark gust, 

With the King marching into the narrow alleyway; 

My newly acquainted lover,  

Turned out to be young and guileless. 

،قاپقارا بوران كەلدى 

،تار كوچىدا ۋاڭ كەلدى  

،يېڭى لارچە يار تۇتسام  

.ئۆزى كىچىك نادان كەلدى  

In the steamer I put some manta,iii 

For us to enjoy together, 

What a time this is that we had to part our ways, 

When our love began to agree with one another.  

،ماتى سالدىم قاسقانغا  

،بىللە يەيلى داسقاندا 

،ھەجەپمۇ چاغدا ئايرىلدۇق  

.ئاشىقلىق ياراشقاندا 

Your home is warm, and courtyard cosy,  

Throwing me in the firepit,  

You choose to sit quietly.  

Where have all the flowers gone? 

،ئۆيلىرى ھەجەپ ئىسسىق  

،ئارلىقلىرى لىممىتە  

،مينى ئوتقا سەپقويۇپ  

.ئولتۇرىۋللا جىممىتە  

.گۈللە قايدا با 

A ladle hasn’t been put, 

Inside a boiling pot; 

I haven’t had a chance to sleep under one quilt, 

With my love who took me long time to find.  

،قايناپ تۇرغان قازانغا  

چۆمۈش سېلىپباققان يوق؛  

،ئارانلاردىن يار تۇتۇپ  

.بىر يوتقاندا ياتقان يوق  

Two birds in the sky, 

One free, one contained,  

I go to sleep merry-hearted, 

Awakening the next morning – arms empty.  

،ھاۋادىكى ئىككى قۇش  

،بىرى باغلاق بىرى بوش  

،ئاخشىمى ياتسام كۆڭلۈم خوش  

ئەتىسى قوپسام قوينۇم بوش 

Here comes Axunum’s wife,iv 

Scarf adorning her chest, 

Come here, my lady, play with me,  

Let me fondle your breasts.  

،ئاخۇنۇمنىڭ قۇشناچى  

سېلىۋەپتۇ لىچەكنى؛  

،كەسلە خانىم ئوينايلى  

.تۇتىقالاي ئەمچەكنى  

If you refuse my love,  

I will live this world without a sweetheart, 

If you do not feel my love, 

I will open my heart so you can catch a sight.  

،سەن مېنى يار ئەتمىسەڭ 

دۇنيادا مەن يار سىز ئۆتەي؛ 

،كۆيگىنىمنى بىلمىسەڭ 

.باغرىمنى يارىپ كۆرسىتەي  

Thousands of nights do not equal to one,  

In a life without my love, 

Hellfire is merely a single flame, 

Compared to my desire.  

،يارسىز ئۆمرۈم مېنىڭ  

مىڭى ياتسام بىر كۈنچى يوق؛ 

،ئىشقى ئوتى ئايلىدا 

.دوزاق ئوتى ئۇشقۇنچە يوق 

Is there any path connecting your neighbourhood to mine? 

The sickness I suffer from love is so hard to bear,  

I wonder, is there a cure? 

They say canola oil is a good remedy,  

Smarter would I have been,  

Not to fall for another’s lover.  

،ئۇ مەلەڭدىن بۇ مەلەڭگە يوللا بامىكىن 

،يار ئارىغى يامان ئىكەن، ھەيرانۇم  

.دورا بامىكىن  

،دورا دەيدۇ، دورا دەدۇ، قىچىلە ياغىنى 

،ئەقلىم بولسا سۈيەرمەنمۇ، ھەيرانۇم  

.خەقنىڭ يارىنى  

A tree without branches makes no shade, 

Friends no more in love hesitate to accept an invitation.v 

The shadow of a tree grown in the riverbank, falls in the riverbank, 

If blessed with good fortune, this lady will be mine; 

Will be mine, this fine lady. 

،سايى بولمايدۇ تېرەك شاقىنى كەسكەندىن كىيىن 

.چىللىسا كەلمەس ئاداشلار كۆڭلى قالغاندىن كىيىن 

سايدا ئۈنگەن ساي دەرەخنىڭ سايىسى سايغا چۈشەر؛ 

.بەختى بولسا شۇ جۇۋانىڭ ئاخىرى قولغا چۈشەر  

 

Endnotes:

i Female name.

ii Male name. With a suffix as ‘Ghojam’, it could refer to someone in a position of status. 

iii A traditional Uyghur cuisine, manta is steamed buns with fillings. It is also used as a euphemistic reference to female genitalia. 

iv Axun, or Akhun, refers to a religious leader; here Axunum - ‘my Axun’. 

v Friends here indicates ‘lovers’.