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.
Turku Registan
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.

Turku shopping in Registan 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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