[And before I forget…this post is also for Himawan of The Paradox Papers. Enjoy reading, my friend 🙂 ]
Back in 2003, Michael Heumann wrote an informative (and lengthy) article on Central Asian music – Almaty or Bust! Central Asian Music In Words and Pictures.
(He included Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbajian, Georgia, Mongolia and Tuva in Central Asia. I disagree with his overly-broad scope, but it’s a very interesting read nonetheless.)
Uzbekistan stands out because – among other things – it is the most historially-rich and populous. It’s also home to Severa Nazarkhan, whose albums have showcased fusion music with an artiste like Peter Gabriel, in addition to more traditional styles and instrumentaiton.
Narrowing down further, here are some highlights of relatively modern music from Central Asian singers and bands. This is only a personal and “light” selection.
According to a friend, the lyrics of this song from this band from Kazakhstan are innocuous, but the video itself is heavily politicised, in that it attempts to show Kazakh-Russian friendship in the post-Soviet world. Someone commented in the video’s YouTube page that this was shot in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. This puts the idea(s) behind the music video in an even more complex light…like establishing linkages between ex-Soviet republics vis-a-vis Russia?
(One for the girls…)
From Kyrgyzstan, Zamir Myrza.
Lola, pop songstress from Uzbekistan.
(Here’s one for the guys…)
Hip-hop/R & B music is also rising in popularity, with a distinctive Central Asian style, as this duet from Shahzoda and Shahriyor shows. (One for both the guys and the girls…)
Central Asia showcases further diversity; Sogdiana from Uzbekistan is of Ukrainian descent. Her music fuses modern beats with Central Asian melodies. (note: Sogdiana is her stage name. Her real name is Oksana Nechitaylo)
Incidentally and probably not coincidentally, “Sogdiana” is also the name of an ancient Iranian-speaking civilisation located in modern-day Uzbekistan, and is one of the groups which has contributed to Uzbekistan’s ethnic complexion.
[Extract from the Wikipedia entry: The great majority of the Sogdian people gradually mixed with other local groups such as the Bactrians, Chorasmians, Turks and Persians, and came to speak Persian (modern Tajiks) or (after the Turkic conquest of Central Asia) Turkic Uzbek. They are among the origins of the modern Tajik and Uzbek people.]
The Turkic languages, spoken or sung, isn’t limited to the political or geographical boundaries of Central Asia or Turkey. The (relatively tiny) Republic of Tatarstan, 300 km east of Moscow, is the home of Tatar-Russian singer Alsou Ralifovna Abramova. The Tatar language itself has a number of dialects, and its ethnic family and speakers are scattered from Eastern Europe to Central Asia to Siberia.
Alsou performing in her birthplace of Bugulma, Tatarstan.
One of the most unique Turkic groups is the Uyghur people, who are mainly found in Turkey, Mongolia, China and most of Central Asia. This is Uyghur girl-group Shahrizoda from Uzbekistan (and you can tell they spent too much time on choreography here – not!).
China “hosts” one of the largest populations of Uyghurs in its Xinjiang province (also know to dissidents and others as East Turkestan). Here we have a slightly modern version of an Uyghur folk song from Xinjiang/East Turkestan.
For a more traditional song, see this video – from Arzigul Tursun, described as “One of the leading Uyghur pop musicians from Kashgar, Xinjiang” no less!