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Adam Sandler should move to Turkmenistan

Written by on Friday, 19 October 2012
Culture and History, Turkmenistan
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Editor’s Note: NewEurasia’s Khan continues his coverage of the Turkmen contemporary music scene, this time focusing his lens upon Pop. The scene is still in its infancy, but its not doing badly for itself. And it helps that weddings are so popular in Turkmenistan…

Turkmen believe that music feeds the spirit. There’s nothing superstitious about that. Western scientists have proven the effects of music upon the mood of listeners, and even plants. Pop Music in particular is quite powerful. The style’s basic chordal structure of A-A-B-A (lyric, chorus, lyric, chorus, bridge, chorus, climax) appears to have real neurological impact, digging itself deep into the brain, pretty much regardless of this or that specific instrumentation. Everyone’s susceptible to it, even people in the most repressed societies like North Korea or my own. That’s why such regimes are even more nervous about Pop Music than about alternative styles like Hip Hop: they know that they cannot ban it, but they also cannot let the Pop singers lyricize unregulatedly.

Of course, Turkmenistan is a direct inheritor of the Soviet censorhip legacy. But this legacy can be complex. In the Soviet era itself, to an outside observer, it would seem very paradoxical that despite the restrictions, the Turkmen SSR nonetheless produced a free spirit like Atabay Charygulyyew (Atabaý Çarygulyýew). Today, controls are actually much tighter.

I suppose one could say that it’s to the censors’ advantage that Turkmenistan is now independent: in the Soviet era, we were on the one hand too far away from central authority to completely regulate, but on the other hand, we were still under that authority, so our own leadership couldn’t just do as it pleased. But whatever the reason, the big Pop singers in our society aren’t our own, but Turks: take a taxi ride in Aşgabat and you’ll hear Ibrahim Tatlıses, Serdar Ortach, Tarkan, Mustafa Ceceli, etc.

The Internet has actually increased this trend. Although some local Turkmen Pop musicians are developing audiences for themselves, for the most part who’s being downloaded are Turks. Still, this probably won’t last forever. The influx of Turkish Pop can only lead to the rise of more Turkmen Pop, either ethnically — i.e., Turkmen performing in Turkish — or in emulation — i.e., as more aspiring Turkmen singers learn from sophisticated Turkish prototypes. An example of the latter would be Begmyrat Annamyradow, who has been performing since 2012 on a Turkish model. He has been really successful, and one can find him performing from weddings to concerts.

Begmyrat Annamyradow (photo from Ertir.com archives).

To my Western readers I should point out that there is nothing shameful about being a wedding singer. Our society has always distinguished between “named” (at gazanan) and “social” (halk) singers, as opposed to the English distinction between “professional” and “amateur”, much less “successful” and “failure”. Wedding singers tend to fall into the halk category, and because weddings are one of the most popular social events in Turkmen society, and because there are just so many of them happening, this is a decent career.

In fact, weddings are a crucial source of income for aspiring Pop singers, for two reasons. First, because in Turkmenistan, singers do not receive commissions on their albums, and so they are dependent upon their earnings from public performances. And second, it’s difficult for them to have an okay side-job because the job market is so bad, and the real (as opposed to official) unemployment rate is so high in our country. So, a lot of them would simply not know what Adam Sandler’s character is complaining about.

What the heck are you whining about? Just move to Aşgabat.

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