All things counter, original, spare and strange in Khujand, Tajikistan

Posts tagged “music

Tajik Music

Long overdue: Here’s what you need to know about Tajik pop music. I listened to this stuff on buses, at weddings, pumping out of shop doors on the way to work, basically everywhere. So eventually I developed a taste for it. Tajik pop music is a mishmash of pop beats and electronified traditional instruments. It’s crazy stuff sometimes but I love it.

Current Tajik pop begins and ends with Shabnami Soraya. She’s the Madonna of Tajikistan, the reigning pop diva. This song is a great party-starter. The chorus means, “everybody clap!”

Karcak-Shabnami Soraya

Next on the list has to be the up-and-comer Nozia Karamatullo. If Shabnam is Madonna, Nozia is Britney Spears, just before she lost the nice girl image. She’s taking the country by storm, while slowly shedding the unibrow-sporting, traditionalist image she started with. This song never fails to make me happy.

 Track 05-Nozia

Daler Nazarov is a Tajik singer-songwriter with more high-art pretensions. He’s kind of the Bob Dylan figure of the Tajik scene, in that everyone pays lip-service to his songwriting, but the kids don’t listen to him anymore. Nevertheless he continues to do cool things. He composed the soundtrack to the excellent film Luna Papa, which was directed by his cousin Bakhtior Xudonazarov. This song is from the album he released in the wake of that film:

Mastam-Daler Nazarov

I’ll finish this Tajik pop overview with one of my personal favorites. This song by Suhrob Otaev is one long love letter to oshi palav, the Tajik national dish. It’s a good example of the over-the-top techno-borrowing that is taken to an extreme in a lot of tracks. But I like this one. The chorus goes, “Everybody knows it! Everybody eats it! This delicious thing, oshi palav!”

OSHI PALAV-Suhrob Otaev

So that’s a taste of Tajik pop. Hope you enjoy it. I know I do.


A Musical Detour

So here’s something that has little to do with Tajikistan: some time ago my friend Justin Johns, who is now working on his Master’s in Composition at the University of Florida, asked me and several others to contribute texts which he would put to music. I offered up a few sonnets, then subsequently forgot about the project. But Justin recently sent me the results, and I was very impressed. He’s a talented guy, with a flair for vocal composition heavily influenced by sacred music. He even wrote his own mass. He posts the work he is doing now here.

As with anything like this, I cringe a little looking back on poems I wrote a few years ago, but I quite liked the work Justin did with the pieces. It’s a flattering thing to see one’s work used this way. So here they are, with the text following each composition. (note: In Praise of Forgetfulness underwent some editing, so the text here may not match word-for-word with the sung text)

In Praise of Forgetfulness

This patterned absence: shadow leaves on snow,

a strain of music on the wind, a wisp

of scent you lose in passing. Subtle gifts

are given in his place, and somehow known

as traces, tracks left by some animal,

who, great as men are great, would naturally

impress himself on his surroundings, I

reason, not willing to admit that all

the tears aside a door will be a door

without his heavy knock, a book will be

a book without his voice.  The way I see

him missed in his apartment’s dusty floor

persists, as dust persists, but then again

did not the dust itself once pass—to man?

After the Ascension

Angel: Why stand you staring after him?

He’s gone but he will soon return again,

And you will drown in floods of glory when

He rends the earth’s thin veil, but do not swim,

Inhale. Yet while you breathe stale air, I say:

Do not forget what wonder round about

Enshrines your dry dust path. Soon you will doubt,

It will be long, you will not know the way

But do not be so foolish as to think

That dust is dust, and not the stuff God’s hands

Made into you, that man is only man,

And not the image of the great unseen.

So now go forth, shake temples, shudder kings.

Go forth! This world must shatter ere it sings.

April Fools!

In honor of the day after April Fools, here is my latest output of satire:

Math Major Dies in Tragic Conceptual Firestorm

At 7:55 last Tuesday morning Sophomore Al Pharkerson arrived early for class in Mills 380, entirely ignorant of the flaming inferno awaiting him. As best as investigators can establish he was reviewing his notes from the previous Thursday’s Concepts in Mathematics when he misapplied an extremely volatile matrix series to a fractal equation, resulting in what mathematics safety specialists have dubbed “the perfect storm.”

Apparently Mr. Pharkerson’s ignorance of higher mathematics, combined with the dizzying amount of complex concepts facing him, ignited the flammable substrate of pure numbers that hangs in the atmosphere around the third floor of Mills, resulting in a conceptual firestorm so destructive it nearly consumed the entire science department with its intense heat.

The Pharkerson Incident (or PI for short), as math historians have dubbed it, takes its place in the pantheon of mathematical catastrophes alongside such famous disasters as Euclid’s Logical Lightning-Storm and the Great Fire of Princeton in 1987, reportedly sparked by the invention of string theory.

“We regret that such a regrettable occurrence took place on our campus” said Dr. Snark, Covenant’s resident expert on the mathematical paranormal, “however, given the dangerous nature of the equations Mr. Pharkerson was dealing with, I think it can be safely said he knew the risks. The lesson we should all draw from this sad story is simple: math is dangerous, kids. Stick to the Liberal Arts.”

“Praise Hero” Allows Anyone to Lead Chapel

Microsoft’s latest Praise Hero video-game for the X-Box 360 has shaken up youth groups, church camps and Christian colleges everywhere with its egalitarian implications: now anyone can lead worship.

The video game is similar to the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, but instead of classic rock tracks, it includes such praise music classics as “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and “Heart of Worship.” In addition, optional accessories like the patented Hand Position Sensor Glove and the Obligatory Cello offer even broader possibilities for game play.

Covenant’s own Chaplain Messed’er is excited about the possibilities. “Now we don’t need to limit our chapel worship-leading positions to those who can strum three chords and carry a tune. Anybody can do it. And I mean anybody. We might even let Joel Piedt help out.”

Given the run-away success of Praise Hero, Microsoft has begun development on further Hero-style interactive product lines. Reportedly Philosophy Hero is a possibility for the academic market, along with other more controversial titles like Knife Fight Hero and Dead Cat Swing Hero. No word yet on the much-anticipated Do Something Real For Once Hero, which threatens to throw the entire franchise into an all-consuming black hole of self-parody.

The Hot Watch: “It” is In

“It” is the new thing in music. “It” is next. “It” is big. “It” is it. “It” is what’s on the Hot Watch this week. Oh yes my indie fishies. There is a new genre burbling out of the fecund pool of genius somewhere in South Brooklyn, and that genre is “it.”

“’It’ is like no-wave,” said one single 40-year old unemployed expert, “but without the wave. Or the no.” “’It’ just is, man” commented another lousy excuse for a human being, “’It’ is music in the realm of pure being.”

The semantic difficulties caused by the new genre’s baffling name can all be traced back to the movement’s founding band: ^*%!!!!), whose name is only pronounceable by trained linguists and native speakers of Igbo.

“It” has so far generated more buzz than Flo Rida’s admission to criminal possession of goat testicles, the growing self-knowledge of Madonna’s sentient hair-piece, and Britney’s come-back. This despite the fact that no band associated with the genre has yet released a single recording.

“We’ll get around to it” said ^*%!!!!)’s lead singer. First we have to re-design our web-site, start a tour diary and learn which way to hold the guitar.” Anticipation and pretension both remain high, as does this reporter’s tab at the Greenwich Village Pub, but that’s beside the point. Incidentally, “The Point” is probably the next genre on the Hot Watch.

Also next on the Hot Watch: the Grizzly Bear side-project chain reaction reaches critical mass; Chris Brown offers restitution to Rihanna to be payable in pizza bagels; and Matt Brown breaks into the underground trip-hop scene. Stay tuned.