Turkmen pop’s masters and disciples
In my last post, I wrote a bit about the scene for Turkmen Pop singers at the moment. Now I want to delve a bit more deeply into their professional conditions. It’s not great, even considering the decent income that some of them can earn from weddings.
To begin with, in Turkmenistan there’s a long tradition of respect of the young toward the old, and this is true in the music industry. There is a master-disciple (halypa-shagirt) relationship between the experienced and neophyte singer. Sometimes the discipleship can be figurative, i.e., if the aspirant singer models himself after one of our yesteryear greats, like Bally Hajy, Nurmuhammed Meredow, and Atabay Charygulyyew. Sometimes it’s literal, i.e., if the aspirant can link up with living greats like Akysh Sapar, Palawan Halmyradow, Hajy Yazmammedow, and Suwhan Orazberdiyew. These singers have many students.
There’s always been a reciprocal relationship between the young and the old: the young must learn and obey the old, but the old would do well to take into consideration the young’s desires and to help them become their own people. Although our politics these days rarely reflects this, our music industry does. Take for example Halmyradow: he began as a guitarist before shifting to Pop with orchestras, producing nine albums of guitar work until he realized that the young (his main customers) weren’t interested in that kind of music. Now he’s quite successful and has valuable insights to pass onto his disciples.
I wrote before about the crucial importance of public performances for our Pop singers’ income. They don’t receive commissions from their albums, and 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. Public performances, especially weddings, can be lucrative, but learning to be a singer, especially if one wants to master an instrument as well, can be expensive, prohibitively so. Additionally, this generation of singers is especially dependent upon their predecessors, but 20 years of gradual economic ruin means there are less predecessors to begin with, as most singers and musicians moved on to find other work.
Still, there is hope. There is in fact more music than ever before being made by my countrymen, especially as the outside world slowly trickles in and brings with it ideas, techniques and opportunities. I wouldn’t say we’re looking at a music renaissance, but the future is not dark.