Turkmen on the turntables: “It should be about life”
Media and Internet, Turkmenistan, Videoblog4 Comments
Editor’s note: Turkmenistan may be second only to North Korea in its self-imposed isolation, but this hasn’t stopped the global phenomenon of “urban culture”, especially in the form of Hip Hop, from arriving there, writes neweurasia’s Annasoltan. Read her previous entry in this post series here.
Due to its sexually explicit lyrics, tendency to glorify violence, and promote radical political views, Hip Hop has long been a subject of controversy in the West. However, precisely because of its gangland origins and lo-tech requirements, Hip Hop has also long been indefatigably grass roots.
So, it’s initially hard to imagine its sudden bloom in such a closed and strictly controlled country as Turkmenistan. After all, this a country where, as part of an extensive personality cult, the official state media broadcasts only songs in praise of the country’s leadership.
But the rigidities of Turkmen media culture are precisely why Hip Hop is suddenly popular: Turkmenistan’s youth are finding refuge in their own subculture and seeking new forms of expression.
Keep in mind that the music form has taken a long journey to get here. It began with some Turkmen youngsters listening to Russian rap songs at home. They then contacted rappers outside of the country, particularly in Turkey, such as A.P.O and Dragon. Today the music form is the fastest growing among Turkmen youth, although for the time being it is limited to urban progressives and students abroad.
Turkmen Hip Hop can now even boast its own dedicated websites, most notably tmrap.com and tm-music.net. These sites allow rappers to communicate directly and quickly with their fans and to promote their albums electronically. Recently, tmrap.com has begun organizing interviews between the most popular rappers and their audiences. Fans post their questions, which are answered by a different rapper of their choice each week.
What is about Hip Hop that is drawing young Turkmens in increasing numbers? Simply, there is less chance economic and social opportunity for them. With little professional prospects and a big generation gap between them and their parents (click here to read an interpretation of this generation gap by neweurasia‘s Maciula) — not to mention all the struggles of normal teenage life — they feel isolated. There is also a clear sense of admiration (and envy) of kids in other parts of the world, especially the West, where high levels of access to technology, entertainment, and fashion seemingly comes easy.
Consider Jennet, a Turkmen student and Hip Hop fan:
I don’t like ‘I’m burning for you’ kind of songs. It should be about life.
I managed to catch up to ZumerChas of the band Turkmen Hip Hop group Darkroom Posse, the most popular Turkmen rapper of our time to reach stardom, and ask him some questions about Hip Hop and Turkmen society. In my next post I’ll share the fruits of my interview with him!