TURKU goes to Uzbekistan
At the end of August, 2001, the musicians of Turku performed at the Sharq Taronalari
festival in Samarkand at the invitation of the government of Uzbekistan. After
a performance at the Uzbek Embassy in Washington, D.C., the assistant ambassador,
Murat Askarov, worked very hard to bring us to the festival. 24 other countries
were represented, as well. We were certainly excited to be going, having a love
of the arts of that region. The main event of the festival was to be held at Registan
Square in Samarkand, a fabulous place of blue tiles built in the early 1400's.
The stage was set in the very center of the square.
From the moment we landed in Tashkent, the festival organizers took very good
care of us. We were met at the airport by the first in a series of very likeable
interpreters that were to accompany us on our trip. Alisher took us to our hotel
to rest before our 4 hour bus ride to Samarkand. The entire ride was magical,
like some National Geographic film. We saw yurts, cattle and goat roadblocks,
people in traditional dress, and fascinating architecture. Suddenly it struck
us that here we were, on the actual Silk Road! On our first night in Samarkand,
we were to play a concert in a park near the Registan. We were escorted by our
interpreter, the beautiful and sweet Lola; and our bodyguard Maxsoud; who spoke
no english, but communicated wonderfully well in "pop culturese". He
took a shine to Dav'id's drums, and since he could not say, "I love to play
the drums", he would say "Ringo Starr!" And so he was dubbed for
the duration of our stay. Two other groups were to play that night; and as the
Turks were getting a sound check, the Japanese singer approached Carla, who was
tuning her davul. She spoke no english, but clapped a downbeat to Carla, who assumed
she wanted to jam. She beat the drum as the singer sang, then waved Dav'id into
it. Their flute player joined us and we had a lovely song going, they were very
good. She went and got her interpreter who told us that they wanted us to come
on stage with them on their last song to do this piece. They were just amazing,
their second song was one of those incredibly slow Japanese tunes that causes
your monkey mind to just grind to a halt. The Turks were a very large group of
wonderfull musicians led by a well known singer. Returning to our hotel, we saw
the Israeli group returning from their performance. We invited them to jam with
us on the patio and a nightly tradition was born. People from several different
groups joined us during the course of the evening. The Israeli singer had the
voice of an angel. Later, we ended up with a massive drum jam till the hotel security
told us it was late for such things. The drummers were all fantastic; and Dav'id
was in drummer heaven. Every night this went on, noone able to speak to each other,
but communicating with music; Egyptians, Azeri, Indians, Israelis, Mongols,
Turks...drumming, playing and singing. Here is a photo of the Uzbeki group.
On the second night we and the Italians, Russians (Altai), and Turks were bused
to a village outside Samarkand called Jomboy. The entire villiage turned out to
sit in the hillside amphitheater to hear us play. As the "group from America"
was introduced, everyone cheered enthusiastically. The Uzbeks seem to care very
much about having good relations with America. After the concert, the village
treated all the groups to a feast in a cloth enclosure. The Altai invited Turku
to come sit with them, where we drank Vodka together and sang songs for each other.
The Registan Square is made up of a University and a Mosque. There are 3 massive
facades and behind each is a huge courtyard surrounded by classrooms which have
been turned into shops.
The textiles, of course, were the main attraction when it came to shopping.
The Mosque is incredible, all done in rich blue and gold. There was a small shop
across the street in front of the museum , that was inside a yurt. A yurt is a
felt covered, tentlike structure used by the nomads of Central Asia. Uzbekistan
is famous for it's textiles, especially the suzani, which were everywhere. These
are large squares of embroidered and appliqued fabric.
One morning, very early, Ted and Carla went walking and ended up at Tamerlane's
tomb in a beautiful Mosque. The lower walls were made of what seemed to be jade;
a very pale green, just gorgeous. We had the place to ourselves except for a man
who was singing his morning prayers. There were so many incredible moments like
this throughout the trip. For a moment, you wish you had the video recorder with
you, then you're glad you don't. One evening, in the hotel bar, D.J. Alimpiy was
spinning the tunes when the Georgian Men's vocal group broke out in a fight or
a dance; it was hard to tell. But, they were definately enjoying themselves. This
was some of the fiercest dancing we've ever seen. On the last night in Samarkand,
the Indian group played and everyone danced together . It was an ecstatic moment
that reflected everyone's joy in the journey. An Uzbeki dancer came out onto the
floor, dressed like a princess; and everyone moved back to watch her dance.
Here is one of the lovely
and graceful Uzbeki dancers.
Everywhere we went, the people we met, whether involved in the festival or not,
were so friendly. We felt very much at ease and welcome. The people there spoke
mostly Russian and Uzbek, which seemed to be a language somewhere between Farsi
and Turkish, so we were able to understand alot. Many people had a fair command
of English as well. Though an Islamic country, religion there is very low-key;
and we were allowed to visit Mosques. These are certainly worth visiting; even
the simplest is very beautiful. We wanted to make this trip to see what we knew
would be fantastic architecture, textiles, and other arts; what turned out to
be the most incredible part of the trip was the relationships we formed with the
other musicians and the Uzbeki people.
We gathered some wonderfull video footage on this trip that we plan to turn into
a video tape. This will be added to our "recording's" page as soon as
it's ready. There will also be a blurb on the "Turku News" page. No
release date has been set at this time. There will be footage of jams, local scenery,
Turku performances, and dancers.
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