Day 13 – a satellite beams from Bukhara

13jkeng.gifHuman contact can take many forms. There is contact when you play or hear a piece of music which triggers a primal reaction within. There is contact when you meet someone who, though living a different life to your own, can understand and relate. There is a contact through ‘communications’, be it a simple conversation or a satellite bouncing signals around the world. Today we made contact. Through music, with people of Bukhara and finally, at last with you the audience.

In our wonderful location preparations are underway to turn the already lavish interior into a ‘new’ set for a different musician. Today we meet a gidchak player (traditional lap violin). Video and audio are in record pause and the scene is set for action. We suddenly get the news that the musician has had to ‘do’ a wedding and cannot make today. Our first ‘non-starter’! Simultaneously, a young man who has traveled eighteen hours to be with us walks into ‘The Musical Nomad’ circle. Howard Drake has brought us a new, fully functional portable communications satellite unit – this is the third one and expectations are high. Will the project finally become two way?
13gary.gifGary becomes more ecstatic as the levers are pulled and the turbines begin to roll – we feel there is a direct parallel here with the early days of TV, this shaky yet elegant production echoes those early pioneers. Suddenly we get full connection, we are in full contact with the outside world. There is little jumping up and down, it’s too hot for that but a great sense of relief as the music, photographs and writing of the past twelve days are efficiently pumped onto the World Wide Web.

13bsun.gifSomething significant is happening in Bukhara. The ancient city takes on a new role. No longer a staging post on the silk road, Bukhara’s main asset in now its magnificent architecture. Everywhere scaffolding is springing up and crumbling fortresses and monuments are acquiring a facelift. People who remember the city in its faded glory fear ‘Bukhara-Disney’ and ‘theme park city’. Personally I am sure it will look magnificent. The Bukhara that celebrates 2500 years is part manufactured but somehow the spirit rings true. What I would like to see is a stronger resistance to Coca Cola culture and cheap diluted europop – both already starting to take over in the otherwise tranquil city square.

Everything moves on and its important that we keep some record of the past. The tools of a musician develop and change with the needs of the music.
13jark.gifIn the local museum I saw some sad old relics of what used to be a gidchak, a tanbur and some 17th century drums. In an unprecedented way the guide allowed us to play one of the drums and again its voice rang out. Living instruments need this, when stuffed and entombed in glass they die – the strings rot and the heads split and they no longer represent the essential vivacity of their function.

The Musical Nomad project fulfills and important function – with every musician we meet we make a state of the art digital audio visual record of their technique, they play at least one whole piece. We hope in this way to make a living record of Central Asian Music now – a real legacy for our grandchildren.

13maus.gifIts is common in Bukhara to find yourself sitting on a wall or bench to admire a building or chat to locals. I chatted to Mohammed, I asked him whether he knows any musicians in town. “My brothers are musicians”, he said, “they run a music shop”. Not quite believing our luck we followed him to his house in the early evening. After a few minutes walk through the narrow backstreets we entered a simple local house with a characteristic courtyard, reminiscent of an African compound. We greeted Mohammed’s wife, Aisha and their young son of three months old lay asleep on a blanket. Soon their two young daughters aged about three and five arrived home from playing in the streets. We drank tea and Mohammed went to fetch some musical instruments.

13comp.gifThere is an ease about people in Bukhara. A warmth which shows itself in the small everyday incidents. Bukharans are naturally hospitable and still curious enough about foreigners to stop and chat . It is obvious however that times are harder since independence and some locals are struggling. Encounters with people like Mohammed’s family are precious therefore for getting an insight into how people live. Undoubtedly Mohammed wanted to sell us instruments but he was also pleased to be able to entertain. We chatted to his daughters and when the conversation ran out I played a Hebrew folk song on my flute – the children seemed intrigued and listened intently. Out came the photo album and we saw their wedding snaps and family momentos. We were asked if we had children. Aisha was surprised that only Paul and I did (she was married when she was seventeen and must only be in her early twenties now). Missing my baby son Tal back home in the UK, I picked up their little one and felt him to be a comforting presence there in my lap. These are feelings that translate well wherever you find yourself in the world. Feelings everyone understands.

13family.gifMohammed returned with his instruments and a raucous noise was struck up within seconds. Rubab, doira, surnai and nai. Unfortunately all the instruments were of poor quality and I bought the ney more as a souvenir of the evening than as a useful instrument. Mohammed seemed pleased and we all trooped cheerfully out into the now dark Bukharan backstreets. We said our good-byes, promised them a copy of the photo Gary had taken of the family, and headed back to the guest house.

Tomorrow I meet a musician playing a gidchak, the traditional violin of Uzbekistan. I then go on a pilgrimage to the tomb of a 13th Century mystic, one of my main reasons for coming to Central Asia

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