As a landlocked Central Asian nation that was also a hub of Silk Road travel, Uzbek music developed deep local traditions but has also remained open to outside influence. Styles like Shashmaqam, a Sufi-inspired, lyrical form, developed from the music of Tajiks, Uzbeks, and even Bukharan Jews.
Today non-Uzbek musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma bring traditional Silk Road music to a global audience, Uzbek musicians abroad (like the New York-based Bukharan-Jewish ensemble, Shasmaqam), perform Central Asian traditional music in their new homelands, and recording artists from Uzbekistan have begun to make their mark on the world music scene.
News flash! “Meaningless” music banned in Uzbekistan.
In class we sing the very meaningful “Taralilalalai” in Uzbek. From the Smithsonian Folkways recording, Bukhara: Musical Crossroads of Asia. Dartmouth music professor Theodore Levin, who produced this collection, also wrote The Hundred Thousand Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (and Queens, New York), which includes a translation of this song. “Taralilalalai” is kind of like “la la la.” “Yar eh” means “my dear.”
In class we also extol the virtues of:
— Sevara Nazarkhan: Sevara Nazarkhan began her musical career as as the vocalist and doutar player in the Uzbek “girl band,” Sideris. She became known in world music circles after releasing Yol Bolsin, which infused Uzbek traditional music with funk. See Sevara on Youtube performing Yor-Yor.
— Yulduz Usmanova: “Adolik.” Like Sevara Nazarkhan, “Yulduz,” as she is widely known — she is also called the Uzbek Madonna — lives musically both in Central Asia and the West. Though her first few albums brought her fame in Asia, she has become increasingly well known for her collaborations with international musicians.
Despite her notoriety Yulduz has mainly lived in Uzbekistan and, with the support of Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan’s “president for life,” has even served in Uzbekistan’s parliament. (In 2008 Yulduz left politics, and Uzbekistan, for Turkey.)