|Tajik women, Shaartuz|
The second instalment of tremendous tunes from Tajikistan. These are in a more ‘traditional’ folk mode but with several interesting pop songs included as well.
Tajikistan is one of those countries which is not well known to much of the international world. Sort of like Paraguay or Bhutan. The most significant recent events and the ones with which the country and its people are still coming to terms with are the collapse of the Soviet Union and a bitter civil war that followed quickly thereafter. And though the war is now well and truly over, its legacy of mistrust, deep division and suspicion are things that lie just below the surface.
Like in many countries political and social privilege were determined by natural boundaries. In the case of Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet Central Asian republics, those boundaries were high mountains and sweeping steppes. In the far eastern part of the country the Ismaili Muslim community (who pledge at least some nominal allegiance to the Aga Khan) ran the intelligence services and were generally feared and despised as such people usually are. Political power and privilege was throughout the Soviet period in the hands of northerners living on the edge of the Ferghana Valley and around the ancient Silk Road city of Khojand (still referred to just a decade ago, by most Tajiks as Leninabad).
In the south of the country lay the capital, Dushanbe (known as Stalinabad until about 1960). The southern part of the country was the bread basket and industrial part but always looked down upon by the northerners and those Ismailis from Badakhshon. One of the outcomes of the war was to upset the political applecart. The Khojandis were frozen out of power and the southerners, especially those from Kulyab came out on top. The President and most key ministers were from this area and they remain determined not to let the ‘arrogant’ Khojandis regain their former monopoly.
In a pattern that paralleled the political map of the country cultural borders and hierarchy were similarly distributed. Northerners claimed to own the true tradition of Tajik music the system of shashmaqom. This was certainly the view promoted by the Soviet Union. Shashmaqom, was seen as the authentic and classical (and therefore, most superior) form of music and over the Soviet experiment this form was lauded for its ability to accommodate ‘European’ styles and norms: western instruments, large ensembles and the sort of sounds that symphonic orchestras produced. Other folk traditions were ignored or anthropologised. Shashmaqom and related genres were broadcast and promoted on official radio and television. The other forms only very rarely got a look in. Shashmaqom was identified as posh, urban and sophisticated.
The problem with this was that shashmaqom was seen by southerners as a music of the Uzbeks or Turks, not truly Tajik/Persian. So throughout the 70 years of Soviet rule culture and political territory shared ethnic and linguistic borders. Southerners, preferred falak a rural folk form of music that relied on untrained performers, small, often individual, groups. The themes of falak (literally: destiny) are similar to the Persian-based ghazal—unrequited love, longing, pain of love, grief. And the classic form of deliver of falak is a single voice accompanied by dutor or singing without accompaniment.
As Tajiks have grappled with the upheavals of post-Soviet realities, music, specifically, and culture, generally, have become new battlegrounds. The government tries to use music as a national unifying force but the guardians of shashmaqom and falak traditions find much to disagree about.
This collection comes once again from my dear friend Manzura (herself from Khojand) and covers most of the bases I’ve alluded to in tonight’s post. There is falaki music of a raw intensity, as well as some almost Egyptian-like large ensemble pieces. And a few nuggets of contemporary pop are tossed in like neutral referees.
Whichever side ultimately wins the cultural / musical war remains to be seen. But for us non-Tajiks, it is all good. This is wonderful music regardless of its source, its history and its destiny.
01 BAIYOTI DUTOR
02 CHUDORO YOD KUN
03. DAR LABI DARY
04. DILBARI MASCHOH
08. FACLI GUL
09 IROQI BUCHORO
11 MEHRI FARZANDI
14 NASRI SEGOH
15 NAVOI SHAB
17 OBI RAVON
21 SABTI ESHBOY
22 SABTI MUNOJOT
23 SAZ E KALAM
24 SOZI DIL
26 USHOQI JURABEK