Music In Uzbekistan: If Not About The Motherland, Tune-It-Out?!
Culture and History, Media and Internet, Politics and Society, UzbekistanNo Comment
Aside from Uzbekistan’s much respected and official national anthem, first and foremost, how many songs of national esteem does President Islam Karimov desire? Plenty, apparently—at last enough ‘culturally acceptable’ ones to fill radio stations, music stores, concert halls and recording studios nation wide.
Translating the website of Uzbekistan’s Culture and Sports Ministry, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) informs that ““meaningless” songs that fail to “praise the motherland”” are now being banned in Uzbekistan. Thus, RFE/RL tells that those whose music and musical careers have been challenged, due to the revoking of their performance licenses, include singers Dilfuza Rahimova, Otabek Mutalhojaevand Dilshod Rakhmonov and groups Mango and Ummon, as, according to the Culture and Sports Ministry:
“Their songs do not conform to our nation’s cultural traditions, they contradict our moral heritage and mentality. We should not forget about our duty to praise our motherland, our people, and their happiness.”
The country’s ban on musical expression, widely reported on in June 2013, has been enforced by Uzbeknavo, which, according to RIA Novosti, is a cultural agency that issues licenses needed by Uzbek musicians in order to “perform in concert halls and at weddings, a major source of income in a country where copyright violations are ubiquitous.”
Reporting on the story, and alluding to the use of music as one of the many expressive tools of persuasion used by the Uzbek state, Global Post says:
“… the government doesn’t rely on guns and muscle alone to keep its citizens in check. Propaganda has proved quite useful, too. Experts say the authorities regularly lean on cultural and entertainment icons to pay their patriotic dues by spreading the good word about Uzbekistan.”
That being said, it clearly goes without saying that Uzbekistan is not a country to be praised for musical freedom. Popular Uzbek folk singer Dadakhon Khasanov’s politically motivated song “Andijan,” about the horrific massacre against Uzbek people in the city Andijan in 2005, extremely unjustly and undeservedly gave him “a three-year suspended prison sentence in 2006 and has not been allowed to perform in Uzbekistan since.”
Moreover, in addition to Khasanov’s story, Eurasianet.com’s Uzbekistan-focused blog ‘Choihona’ informs:
“It’s nothing new for Tashkent to set its sights against music: In 2011, Uzbek TV broadcast a documentary warning that rap and heavy metal are “satanic music” created by “evil forces” to cause “moral degradation.””
In continuing with restricted expression and powerful propaganda, there is at least one Uzbek artist whose music is supposedly culturally and nationally worthy enough, so must think the heavy-handed President at least. And she just happens to be none other then the governing daughter herself, the ever-patriotic Gulnara Islomovna Karimova, a.k.a. ‘Googoosha.’ Though incredibly unjust, the music of this politically fabricated artist, whose main goal is to praise the Uzbek state—as she is the governing state, is staying afloat amid these new music regulations.
Now, how in the world, one might wonder, do the songs of a woman with a barely-there musical track record, who sings as a seductress about men rather than her Motherland, surpass those of truly talented Uzbek musicians? To add icing to the politically saturated cake, one factor that might add to the equation is that Gulnera—fashion designer, economist and diplomat—is lead figurehead of The Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundations (Board of Trustees) and other cultural and social based NGOs in the country.
Those who define what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘meaningful’ music should be the fans of artists, the tallied number of tickets and CDs sold, resonation of lyrics, instrument and composer’s embodiment and so on. The very deciding of what constitutes artistic talent—by political leaders and for political leaders, based on political lyrics and messages within musical mediums—not only hinders the free expression of Uzbek artists but painfully obstructs the circulation of new artistic genre, opinion, perspective and interpretation within Uzbekistan’s artistic world, which is indeed a rich and diverse world at that.
Here’s to hoping that these new Uzbeknavo-supported regulations on music do not diminish musical variety in Uzbekistan, and to advocating that the ban on “meaningless songs” soon gets adjusted, because state leaders should not have the right to devalue the artistic work of its citizens based on their own ideas of national pride and lyrical preference. In the meantime, here’s to spreading the word on Uzbekistan’s malice against artistic expression and hoping the songs of favourite artists continue to be played, regardless of how the state classifies them.
Photo Credit: Web Screenshot, “Musical instruments. Uzbek souvenirs,” from www.advantour.com’s page on Traditional Uzbek Souvenirs