Articles tagged with: Turkmen on the Turntables
In my last post, I talked about the political potential of Turkmen Hip Hop. What I meant by that wasn’t that the music is going to mobilize the young generation to rise up against their government — maybe it could, if the çyraçy ideal (fast cars, fast money, fast women) flounders against the hard realities of our country’s daily life – but that the authorities should listen to it, to understand the desires of the youth. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen, but not just because our leaders seem too afraid to listen to anyone else. Hip Hop will probably continue to be rejected also because of the huge negative reaction from the general public to Hip Hop, and the fact that the çyraçy ideal challenges the very nature of our state at the moment. In fact, the two things — the negativity of the general public and the threat to our sense of nationalism — are connected.
The outside world makes fun of how our media is so censored, but they don’t completely understand. It’s no longer a top-down Stalinist system in which officials meet everyday to plan the propaganda machine; increasingly, people outside of the government can submit their own content to the media for broadcast. However, their content must meet very strict regulations set by the officials: you cannot criticize the government or be political in any way in your lyrics, and if you film a video clip to go with your song, you must wear decent, formal clothing, and girls especially cannot wear anything explicit. Restrictions like these are why you will not find Hip Hop on the official media outlets; the çyraçy ideal is not compatible with the “traditions” and “good morals” the authorities want to promote. The thing is, the older generations — the parents and grandparents of the rappers’ audiences — agree with the authorities.
Editor’s Note: To those haters who sayin’ Turkmenistan’s got nuttin’ goin’ on, NewEurasia’s Khan gotz a report for you: a history o’ the country’s Hip Hop scene. Damn straight.
Back in 2009, NewEurasia’s Annasoltan started up a series entitled, “Turkmen on the turntables”, about the incipient Turkmen Hip Hop scene. This scene is probably the most under-reported music scene in the Turkic world. I don’t want to let awareness of it in the rest of the world drop, so I’m going to take the mic from Annasoltan with a respectful nod to her good work.
Editor’s note: neweurasia’s Annasoltan interviews a veteran of the Turkmen music scene to explore the last 20 years of artistic development — or un-development — in Turkmenistan.
Is Turkmenistan entering an artistic resurgence? Yes, if we were to believe the official media, in which even Berdimuhamedov has been shown performing a love song with an electric guitar. But what do my nation’s artists think?
I’ve done a lot of coverage about the interaction between the Turkmen music scene, the digital world of the Turkmenet, and our political establishment (“Turkmen on the Turntables”, “TolkunFM — a potential revolution in Turkmen musical life”, Pioneering the Turkmenet” and “Turkmenistan’s singers caught in a vicious circle”). Recently I had a chat with a middle-aged singer and composer, Annaberdi from Ashgabat, a real man of the “analog” era– the dutar. His account of the travails of the music scene in Turkmenistan over the last 20 years raises a lot of questions about not only the past, but a crisis of identity among our nation’s singers and musicians — a crisis fostered by economics, politics, and technology.
Editor’s note: A fake Hip Hop concert announcement on the Turkmenet reveals something about the character of Turkmenistan’s young generation, and the complexity of hope, fantasy, and reality, reports neweurasia’s Annasoltan. “[I]f there’s a positive message to take away from this sad Valentine’s Day ‘gift’, it’s that the general response to the announcement indicates something of the real freedom that young Turkmen desires for their country,” she writes.
In a chat room in the Turkmenet, a Turkmen netizen announced a Hip Hop concert in Ashgabat for today to commemorate Valentine’s Day. The concert was supposedly going to host all the major stars of this young music and social movement. In the end, though, it turned out to be just a bad joke.
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. neweurasia’s Annasoltan explores how Hip Hop can thrive — or die — in a totalitarian police state. Read her previous entries in this post series, including exclusive remarks from Zumer Chas of Darkroom Posse, here. Also, read Chris Schuepp’s 2008 guest post on underground pop music in Turkmenistan here.
Given the meteoric rise in popularity of Hip Hop in Turkmenistan, what approach are the Turkmen authorities taking toward the music form and the restive youth subculture it represents?
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. neweurasia’s Annasoltan has some exclusive comments from the biggest name in Turkmen rapping — Zumer Chas of Darkroom Posse. Read her previous entry in this post series here and here. Also, read Chris Schuepp’s 2008 guest post on underground pop music in Turkmenistan here.
Okay, for those of you who don’t know, the music form “Hip Hop” or “Rap” originated in 1970s Bronx, New York City, and has since spread across the world. That’s a lot because it’s more than music, but a whole lifestyle. Some (American) names you’ve probably definitely heard of: Eminem, Queen Latifah, Sugar Hill Gang, Salt’n'Pepper, 2Pac, Snoop Dog, NWA, etc. etc. But unless you’re in Turkey or Turkmenistan, I bet you’ve never heard of Zumer Chas.
Zumer is the biggest name from the Turkmen Hip Hop group Darkroom Posse, the most popular Turkmen Hip Hop operation of our time to reach stardom. For example, in 2008 when Zumer gave a concert together with RuDe, 1600 people came — a remarkable number. I caught up with him recently to ask him his thoughts about why the music form is spreading in Turkmenistan, and what it means to be a rapper in this country.
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.
Turkmen rap songs are gaining speedy popularity among the Turkmen youth. New rap websites are popping up left and right.
“Palestine”, a song about Palestinian children killed by Israeli security forces by Zumerchas of the rap group Darkroom Posse, has been rapidly making the rounds among listeners. Darkroom Posse has toured in Turkey and includes rappers from Turkmenistan, Russia, Canada, and the United States.