Posts Tagged PAUL

Day 36 – Mad ride to music lesson

36truck.gifI have the morning off as I’m scheduled to visit the local village school at 12 noon. I’m told that around the next hill there is a beautiful gorge, so I set off for a bit of sightseeing. Nomadmobile 4 is a fairly rugged minibus but likes to keep it’s tyres on a road. After a five minute drive the mountain track runs out and we are left with a mud path with ruts 2 feet deep. Our driver pushes on but the van is soon grounded on it’s axle. By unlikely coincidence a huge four wheel drive truck appears full of local workmen. They turn out to be a pylon crew and in fact have a mains pylon in the back of the truck. Sign language prevails as they offer a lift, so next minute I’m off sitting on the bonnet, 5 feet in the air taking plunging dives into 3 feet ditches – “when you travel you live in the moment – it might be your last”. We arrive at the gorge and I take my pictures – the pylon crew wait patiently then, believe it or not, take me back to my campsite – time has a whole new meaning out on the steppe. I’m sure they thought we were all mad.

36kurmsc.gifMali, the headmaster of the school asked us where we would like his pupils to gather. Five minutes later more than 60 of his finest, marched single file into a small, but bright assembly hall. Their ages ranged from 11 to 18 and they were abnormally well behaved. The older children stood plain faced at the back and the youngsters in the front looked slighty perplexed. This was no normal second day of term. There were ‘westerners’ with cameras and musical instruments. Above the children a poster of a famous Kazak poet looked like it had been there for a decade. The few teachers that were present stood calmly at the back and occasionally prodded any child who showed the slightest sign of misbehaviour.

36jwhis.gifI had arranged with the headmaster that we would listen to the school perform their national anthem. Then we would perform some music. They promptly broke into unison singing. A lengthy anthem with a range of voices, some decidedly discordant. At the end we applauded, something surely strange to them which provoked very little reaction. Immediately afterwards I introduced them to the team and the project. Moldira translated and the children paid attention.

Each of the team played their individual instruments. Paul a passionate Spanish melody on classical guitar, Gary a melodic Jazz piece on soprano saxophone and I played a short Irish jig on penny whistle. Kathy was too busy taking photos as usual. I sensed that this was something new for them. In the ranks quiet chatter broke out occasionally and the applause seemed genuine.I asked the school to assemble in a circle to teach them them a song with nonsense words. They began to liven up, responding to this call and response game. Once they had learnt the simple three note melody I taught them some movements which became deafeningly loud on the hollow wooden floor. This didn’t deter them from singing their hearts out. 36musles.gif

For the finale the Nomad team gathered to play their own version of the Turkish melody that has been cropping up at various meetings on our journey. I improvised over the chords on my concert flute. I think we may have sown some seeds. Perhaps when these little Kazak children grow up one of them may have the urge to play flute.

We were then taken to a classroom to witness a music lesson. Kuan and the music teacher stood in front of the class. The children sat in formal rows. Pinned on the blackboard were pictures of various types of Kazak dombra. These seemed to serve a purely decorative function as they were never referred to. The lesson commenced with a group of children performing a Kazak song.

36kdom.gif

One by one children were called up individually or in groups to do ‘a turn.’ We began to suspect that this ‘lesson’ had been staged for our benefit. Some of the children sang and played well but we had really been interested in music teaching. The media arriving in your village is perceived as a solemn and important occasion. Was everyone briefed to be on their best behaviour? Outside school the children laughed and played and they seemed back to normal again.

36headw.gifAfterwards we were invited to the headmasters house for chai. In his front room we were confronted with a huge table groaning with food. We had experienced this before – heaps of fantastic home produced food that you just can’t refuse. It proved to be a good opportunity to talk to Mali, the headmaster. We discovered that his school had only been built in 1992 and he took over as headmaster in 1993. The school had been doing well but Mali regretted the lack of IT resources. We promised to send him a token desktop computer. We showed Mali and his wife around our web site and they seemed to like it. They asked if we had any images from other parts of the world. We obliged by showing the inevitable photographs of Trafalgar Square with Red Buses – they were delighted.


In the heat of the day we make a hasty decision to move camp. We leave behind Bulat and his family (our yurt neighbours) and the villagers of Kurmetui.

Onward for three hours up the Charyn River valley to a large lake and a bigger village. Who knows what awaits on the last day of a journey?

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Day 9 – Red Tape Hell, Musical Heaven

08conver.gifHaving been out of action for a while I have not been able to tell you about our meeting with Pattahon Mamadaliev. Sometimes it’s difficult to interview musicians here because of their modesty . if you ask them about themselves they will naturally represent themselves in a very humble way. Pattahon is a good example of this.A respected maqam performer he is particularly famous for his wedding singing in the Fergana style. He is professor at Tashkent state Conservatoire and has performed numerous times on TV and Radio. In fact, the people working in our hotel were thoroughly surprised to see him sitting in their dining room. Perhaps the thing that most distinguishes him is his status as a composer. Pattahon was the first musician to be awarded the honorary title of Hafiz by the new administration after independence. This title is used in the Islamic World to describe one who has learned the Koran by heart, but it can also refer to a master musician. Pattahon is not only an interpreter, he also composes maqam music and texts.

I always enjoy watching older musicians who have played for years, they often have a minimalist style, an economy of expression. Pattahon plays as if his tanbur is a part of him and his voice still retains a power which belies his seventy years. Interestingly when we asked about the age of the tanbur he said it was not old, only fifty years.

09kathas.gifAs Pattahon’s life spans much of the period of Soviet rule in Uzbekistan I was keen to ask him about the changes that had come about. Both he and Abdurahim were clear that it had been an ill conceived experiment on the part of the Russians to try to change the musical tradition here. They felt it to be a tribute to the strength of the music and the peoples’ feeling for it that it had survived. Sasha our interpreter and musicologist companion pointed out that this viewpoint was fairly nationalistic and not necessarily representative of all musicians in the country, although there is much evidence that Soviet Cultural Policy had set out to repress the music. Sasha can be heard translating this viewpoint in an excerpt from the interview.This day was to be special for the project. A high ranking official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was going to make customs give us our satellite phone. We left for the airport at 9 am in triumphant frame of mind believing we would return within the hour. At 2 pm two bedraggled people walked through the door, black satellite phone in hand. We had been through red tape hell. The country may have reached independence but the old Russian way of doing things remains fully intact. An endless stream of grey concrete ‘huts’ scattered randomly around a wide, bland pot-holed road leading away from the airport. Sleepy Army soldiers guard rusty gates and several stages of payment, slips of paper and rubber stamps get you in.

09satbit.gif

Over a roaring fire a large wok containing gallons of water. Lumps of dirty raw meat and vegetables, sit bubbling away in the middle of one of the yards – who is it for? The atmosphere of the place is slow and still, certainly not an area bubbling with efficiency. The various stages that Uzbekistan customs ask you to go through to acquire your own property is excruitiatingly painful when like us, you are in a rush. The paperwork and arguments burn irretrievably into the memory of all who pass through each ‘hut of frustration’.Though I’m still unwell, I’m keen to see how the new satellite is shaping up. I descend the stairs to find Gary and Paul surrounded by 100 pieces of wreckage – I can’t believe it, the replacement satellite has possibly been corrupted in transit and they are trying to trace an obvious fault. Despite all their efforts the team cannot find one, desperate calls to England are hampered when we can’t get a phone line. I retire to a safe distance, Gary and Paul are not happy. Ten minutes later I am awoken by a combined banging and throbbing – what now? Peering through the door I see Gary manfully priming a petrol generator and Paul planting an earth spike in the dusty courtyard. There wasn’t enough current in the local electricity supply to even work a soldering iron, so this is the solution – make your own electricity. It’s bizarre seeing all this sophisticated satellite gear driven by a petrol generator.

We are told a third satellite transmitter will be hand delivered in a few days to Bukhara. Please stick with us we are doing everything we can, normal ‘service’ will commence shortly.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments