Day 14 – To succeed this project must be interactive

14gidy1.gifIn the same way that a musician craves an audience I must hear from you. I invite you to help produce this exploration into Central Asian music – do you wish to know more about vocal music or instrumental? Are you interested in the related art of dance? Looking back on the previous pages, did we leave any questions unanswered? Are you gaining a clearer picture of this rich culture? Would you like to hear more from any of the featured musicians? – we have up to three recordings of each player. Are we telling you enough about the cultural context? Are you interested in the history, the religion or indeed the politics? We can’t promise all the answers, we will give it our best. Be a director in this bold new medium, I invite you to call the shots.

Meeting Ulmas Rasulov, Uzbekistan’s foremost classical ghidjak player, was an unforgettable 14gidy2.gifexperience. The ghidjak is a spike fiddle and has many similarities to the violin. It has a short neck attached to a gourd shaped soundboard and has a slightly shrill timbre which can only be controlled by very experienced players. Ulmas, who is totally blind, communicates straight from the heart with an incredible openess and honest sensitivity. He has an awareness of the people around him that transcended his lack of sight. He talked to Kathrin and she found it a wonderful surprise to hear that the cello is his favourite European instrument. He suggested she immediately get a cello and play a few duets with him. Ulmas has a great passion for European music, especially Spanish and although the pieces he played were traditional, they exhibited influences far and wide. He played with a deeply felt passion and intensity that touched us all.

14nash.gifUlmas told us later that the ghidjak “connects with the heart and soul of the people in Central Asia.” To him this is sacred music, “the music of God”. He feels that together with the sato (another bowed string instrument) and surnai (a reed instrument), the ghidjak comes closest to the human voice. He adds that the voice is the most important ‘instrument’ here and all other instruments aspire to its qualities.”In post-Islamic and pre-revolutionary Transoxania the whole of artistic culture, literature, music and architecture was based on Sufi ideas.”
Alexander Djumaev (Sasha)

14koran.gifOn our travels I’ve had many opportunities to chat to our friend and musical adviser, Dr Alexander Djumaev. Sasha is a leading musicologist and historian who is particularly interested in the relationship between Sufism and culture. He is a mine of information and has been responsible for introducing us to some extraordinary musicians. I too have become extremely interested to discover more about a mystical tradition that has inspired such an extraordinary culture. As part of this quest I felt it would be important to visit the tomb of Bahauddin Naqsband who is a ‘patron saint’ here in Bukhara.

The tomb is now part of a large complex which includes a mosque, an old dervish house, a museum, a cafe, gardens and of course the gnarled old mulberry tree, reputedly planted by Bahauddin himself. Legend has it that wishes will be granted and women made fertile by passing under the tree three times. There is the air of a tourist complex about the place. It is not until you approach the tomb that the intensity of feeling he engenders becomes apparent. A Koran reciter sits under a shady tree, people join him to have suras recited for dead relatives or just to hear them. An elderly gentleman’s voice chokes with emotion as he prays. The pleading and emploring in his voice makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable. It is like witnessing someone’s distress. This is the same yearning that comes across in some of the music we have heard here, especially maqam.People bring their children here and walk three times around the tomb for luck. Women kiss and stroke the old mulberry tree. Whether or not any of those people maintain a practical connection with the Sufi tradition is unclear.

14jwish.gifLong beforethe revolution the Naqsbandi Order travelled to Turkey and India. There are now branches of the order all over the world. It is undergoing a revival, instigated by influences from outside. I do not know if I have discovered anything new
today, but I have gained an insight into the devotion that people here have for this great Sufi teacher.

Tomorrow I go, for the first time, into the mountains near Baysun to seek out a Bakshy and the legendary Baysun Ensemble.

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