Posts Tagged Arizona

Day 34 – Take the first left on the A351

34cowboy.gifWe break camp at 9 am and leave the Almaty area passing the ominously titled ‘Panilov State Farm’. The A351 is a bumpy old ‘B’ road lined with fruit growers selling their wares. Delicious tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, remember those? Melons ooze sweet juice and the apples ‘tang’ in your mouth.

The mountains sit tantalizingly ten miles either side of the road. Horses run wild on the wide open plains. As we travelled we listened to the Kazak folk ensemble of Day 2. One melody that seemed very appropriate contained a Kazak traditional instrument – horses hoof castanets.

34camp.gifIn places the countryside is almost English but the rising thermometer shatters that illusion. There are ‘yurt’ shaped bus shelters decorated with colourful mosaic and men on horses with sun carved faces. Donkey carts pull whole families. Occasionally we encounter ‘the land that time forgot’ – rusting hulks of abandoned industry. Rows of dead cypresses await some forgotten promise of irrigation.

We are heading East from Almaty for supposedly 6 hours towards the Chinese border. In fact the journey turns out to be a 10 hour slog. Our route will take us enticingly close to China. This will be the furthest East that the Musical Nomad project will travel. The lanscape here is dramatic and mostly vertical, it is possible to drive for hours without seeing anyone.

34inter.gifDuring the journey we stopped off at the the Charyn River canyon. On some rocks precariously close to the edge of a 200 foot drop I chatted to Moldira our Kazak interpreter. (We have tried to include profiles of people that we have met on our journey. We hope to give a sense of the variety of lifestyles that still co-exist within a fairly small geographical area.)

I already knew that Moldira was a dancer and was very interested in music. So I asked her a bit about her life in Kazakstan.

Could you tell us about your job in Chimkent

34mold1.gifIn 1994 I worked in Chimkent, my native town. I was a producer of my own private music club. I had a music programmme on TV. It covered music from both the World and Kazakstan. It was pop music as young people were more interested in this rather than Kazak music. I was also a journalist in the local Chimkent paper called Sebja ‘My Paper’. The TV program was very popular because it was the only one of it’s kind and it was called M95. M for Music, Moldira and Molodjosh (youth). It began in 95. My program was on twice a week and in Chimkent it had 6000 viewers. I was very popular because I presented and scripted it.

Why did you leave?

The technical side was not very good and my aim was to make quality programmes. I think that it is better to have no programme at all rather than a poor one. We never had enough time for filming and we only had one camera. Also we could not travel much to meet musicians.

But it was a very popular TV programme?

I think so because every second or third person would stop me in the street and say ‘hello, I know your programme’

Do you think you want to continue working in television?

34canyon.gifI don’t know because there are still technical problems in Alpha TV, Chimkent (the TV company I worked for). I like languages and I want to speak better English and German. Maybe in the future I will want to return but I haven’t studied economics or management and showbusiness is heavily connected to money. I was the manager of my own dancing group. and I managed a music club in Almaty which was the first of it’s kind. In 1992 there was a competition between Almaty music clubs and ours was the best.

What sort of music club was it?

Some years ago it was discotheque, now it is a TV and Radio station. Bigger, programmes, concerts, music competitions.

What do you think of Kazak TV?

Some programmes are primitive. They are often samey and repetitive

Do you still dance?

I haven’t studied dance but I like it very much. I can do any kind of dance. Especially funk. I know Kazak traditional dancing of course, it’s in my blood.

Do you like Kazak traditional music?

It is natural for me to like it, Yes.

Is it common to find pop music with Kazak melodies?

34joes.gifThere are some traditional melodies in modern mixes and I enjoy this. Because it’s old music with a new look. We can’t forget our old musical traditions. It is very important.

How do feel about Kazakstan after independence?

The first things that were changed in our country specifically in Almaty were the restaurants, nightclubs. We have freedom, liberty

Is this good?

I think it is not just good. But it is freedom. Each person can feel free. To visit interesting places not just the Kino, cinema, which is primitive. So many foreigners come to Almaty which makes it very interesting.

Do you feel positive about the future?

I hope but I don’t know

Do you feel its possible to find a job?

Yes I think its possible if you have ambition.

The kind of work you have been doing, TV, Radio could you have done that before independence?

Yes but now it is more easier.

You told me you like the natural beauty around Almaty?

34wagon.gifNature is my second home. I like it very much. Fresh air and the mountains are fabulous. People are nothing compared to the mountains. That is an important point. I dream about the lakes, rivers, nature, mountains, rocks, deserts.

Do you think more people will visit Kazakstan to see these places?

Yes. I have worked with many foreigners and they usually say it is so beautiful. The mountains and the stars and this makes me happy.

We drive on through desert steppe at the edge of the mountain – a yellow furze, almost a cowboy’s Arizona. In a valley near Zalanas I see my first ‘wild’ Nomad yurt. As the sun sets, after nine hours drive, a man on horse-back tells us we can camp near his yurt. We set up our tents somewhere in the wilds of Kazakstan.


Tomorrow. We visit the nearby local village. Join us and see what happens.

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

No Comments

Day 16 – Let us hear your voice

16sat.gifThe journey to Baysun in South Eastern Uzbekistan, today took us over several mountain passes close to the Afghan and Tajik border. The environment is barren and inhospitable with few rivers or lakes to nourish the harsh land. We passed through several suspicious random checkpoints which had no obvious reason for existance – the regional boundaries seem inappropriate in such ‘samey’ terrain. Many of the panoramas call to mind Arizona, mini Grand Canyons appear with extraordinary regularity. As we approached from the West, the sun sets turning the sandy landscape Martian. We round a bend and nestled below a 12,000 ft ridge an apparent oasis comes into view. Baysun is surprisingly large with a population of nearly 23,000; its main sources of income are meat and wheat. It has a large supermarket, a diminutive produce market and a house of culture, complete with 1000 seater cinema.

15pres.gif When we arrived there was some confusion as the famous Baysun ensemble had left town. They had been sent for a two week ‘gig’ in Tashkent and were our only form of contact – initially we were asked to leave.

After the shock died down the town’s officials began to buzz around us. What to do? Some people from another land had descended on their town. There followed a lengthy approval procedure, we were taken to Turakul Hamraev’s office (Baysun’s Mayor) – a yard with a table and phone. We had to explain our mission, do an impromtu Multimedia presentation and smile a lot at the various dignitaries. After an hour or so of ‘checking’ each other out we were suddenly honored guests – the transition into that mode almost lost on a tired ‘Nomad’ team. Many of the local musicians were also in the throng. Another musician we wanted to meet, Shoberdy Bakshy who had now been told to spend time with us tomorrow and to cancel a financially lucrative wedding ceremony.

16stat.gifOnce accepted we received a welcome of such kindness and honesty that we were at first very disconcerted. The deputy major of the Baysun region, Samariddin Mustafakulov had been given the unenvious job of looking after us at 9 pm. He opened a restaurant for us to eat after our long trip, he made available at a moments notice, a Daja (a summer house in the past used by Russian officials) and he even waited at our late night table plying us with vodka. Throughout the coming day he would accompany us everywhere, standing over the lengthy video and audio recordings, following us into the mountains for a location shoot with the Bakshy singer – making sure we were happy and at every moment filling our chai cups with vodka. Ourstandard refusal of we have too much work to do eventually worked.

The Soviet’s pulled out of this area and indeed the whole of Uzbekistan back in 1992. The control reverted back to the indigenous people who retained many of the Soviet ways. Here in Baysun there is the remarkable combination of a warm and friendly people living in the shadow of the past – things have moved on but at a far decelerated pace.

16bak.gifSometimes musicians are more than just players of music. Sometimes concert pianists disappear into a world of their own creation – lost in music. Jazz musicians talk of being ‘high on music’ and anyone lucky enough to play an instrument occasionally feels that sense of the music taking over. When Shoberdy Bakshy sings, gently thrumming on his dombra, clocks pause. His voice is a low chested throb rising to a scream. His dombra dances with the rhythm of something anciently human. Short songs in his repertoire last 20 minutes, the long ones several days. For us he wishes to record a 2-hour epic – our longest tape lasts merely 60 minutes. Shoberdy composes on the spot, taking an old theme and reweaving it into a new opus featuring all members of the “Musical Nomad”.

The biggest frustration of travelling is not being able to share experiences with the ‘folks’ back home. Here we have the immediacy of satellite communication, sharing a moment with the World. My ‘moment’ today was driving through the mountains sitting next to Shoberdy who was singing his song about our arrival in Uzbekistan. Sasha, Bahadir, the deputy mayor, everyone was in the story – each laughted and nodded as their name was mentioned. It suddenly struck me that he was doing exactly what we were doing, telling a story live, responding to the environment. This spontaneity affected me more than anything else.16jback.gifIn interview he spoke of his songs of friendship, love and nature. In the presence of the microphone he declined to speak of Shamanism – he just oozes ‘spirit’ from the ends of his calluosed fingers. Shoberdy Bakshy is a wild man who dances to a different drum and drinks vodka like water. May he live a long and mysterious life.

Tomorrow – Samarkand. We take the ‘Golden Road’ to discover the music of the ‘Pearl of the East’.

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

3 Comments