Subtitled ‘Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan: Sounds of the Silk Road’, The Rough Guide to the Music of Central Asia celebrates the enormous musical wealth and diversity coming out of these rarely visited lands.
Traditional songs like the achingly mournful Sevara Nazarkhan tune ‘Adolatingman’ (Uzbekistan) rub shoulders with rock tunes like Ulytau’s ‘Adai’ (Kazakhstan). Echoing perhaps a fractured cultural landscape that plays out to Western, Soviet and Sino influences against a backdrop of Islam.
The Islamic influence is more implied than stated on this album though as local regimes (and their backers) are generally none too keen on this alternative power base.
The more traditional pieces on the compilation often feature the defining instrument of the region, the saz (a long-necked lute held by many to be of Turkish origin). In common with the sitar, saz (also called dutar, tambur, setar, dombra and komuz) players tend to the virtuosic and their music is as exquisite as it is demanding on the listener.
On the more traditional side, lutes and fiddles also make their appearance and on the more contemporary side there is a full array of western instruments in play including of course the synth.
One of my favourite juxtapositions on the CD comes when the ecstatically shamanistic and timeless Raushan Orazbaeva’s ‘Akku’ (Kazakhstan) is followed by Tajik rap as DJ Shaitan raps in English over the stirring sounds of a folk tune given a dance music treatment — making the link between these otherwise impossibly different pieces of music.
Listening to this vast array of musical talent, I am reminded of Andy Kershaw’s description of the Rough Guides project, “an act of lunatic scholarship”. Rough Guides are to be congratulated for helping to open up the musical traffic on the Silk Road again with this generously diverse collection of nomadic, settled, Western, Eastern, pop, traditional, classical sounds.
RGNET1129CD Barcode: 605633112924
1. Adai – Ulytau
2. Fergana Tanovar – Turgun Alimatov
3. Adolatingman – Sevara Nazarkhan
4. From The Station To The Mill – Ashkabad
5. Devonah Shaw – Davlatmand
6. Aktamak Koktamak – Abdorahman Nurak
7. Schoch Va Gado – Yulduz Usmanova
8. Yod Kardom – Farzin
9. Sary-Arqa – Abdulkhamit Rayimbergenov
10. Akku – Raushan Orazbaeva
11. Az Ghami Tu – Nobovar
12. Jygach Ooz Komuz – Kambarkan Folk Ensemble
13. Gongurbash Mukamy – Yagmyr Nurgeldyev
14. Song Of Karara – Ayjemal Ilyasova
15. Zhez-Kiik – National Ensemble Of The Presidential Orchestra
16. Oz’begim – Sherali Juraev
17. Garduni Dugah – Ari Babakhanov & Ensemble
18. Untitled – Munadjat Yulchieva
19. Bul Bul Zaman – Edil Husainov