A great sounding board for Tajikistan

Tajik drummer, Kursheda Fazylova, performing at the European Week 2012 rock concert in Dushanbe. Credit: Kirill Kuzmin/Bactria

“I felt a stronger self-assurance, and I learned that I am good at performing live,” said Tajik singer Parveen Yusufi about her recent experience at the Bactria Cultural Centre in Dushanbe. She spent a full month there recording her music and rehearsing a live concert, which she performed at the Tajik National Conservatory and at the Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments. “It was a wonderful experience,” she recalls.

For Tajik music talents like Parveen Yusufi, rehearsing in a studio with professional instruments, or following a training course on the latest industry trends, is a luxury few can afford. This results in a Tajik music scene dominated by playback. But, most critically, it means many fledging bands and artists give up, or simply under perform in a very limited market. 

Kirill Kuzmin from the Bactria Cultural Centre believes the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent collapse of many cultural institutions heralded the Tajik music scene’s decay. He has recently wrapped up a wide-ranging initiative to help revive the industry. 

Bactria’s work has focused on helping artists succeed in an increasingly competitive market. It has involved cutting edge training for musicians and other professionals; full time music management fellowships with an internationally recognised tutor from Saint Petersburg; the donation of modern equipment and digital music resources to the Gurminj Museum; as well as a number of small grants to fund concerts across the country. The UNESCO International Fund for Cultural Diversity has been a key donor to the initiative. 

With traditional Tajik music on the rise but also jazz, fusion, rock and even rap genres flourishing, “we have directed our music industry towards a cycle where artists, managers, promoters and technicians are proficient in what they do and are also interconnected,” explains Mr Kuzmin.  For example, “a new generation of sound engineers has emerged through the project, while many music events happening today across the country are managed by some of our trainees.” 

Twenty-six year-old Pavel Lee was one of Bactra´s fellows and trainees in event management. He says the highlight of the course was the hands-on experience that he got managing and coordinating the ‘Safe and Friendly Dushanbe’ concert last December. For Mr Lee it involved managing the funds, the venue, the sound and lighting, the promotion and even the performing artists.

“I definitely got the opportunity to challenge my capacities and all that I had learned during the training,” said Mr Lee. He recalls “coordinating all of the people involved and following up on contracts and report writing” as the hardest part.

Also thanks to the project, the Gurminj Museum now has the equipment, the technical skills and even the legal foundations to become an independent record label. And, “a number of traditional and fusion musicians have already recorded professional albums in it,” says Mr Kuzmin.

When asked what’s next for Parveen Yusufi, she talks about her dreams of live concerts in Tajikistan and abroad. “I want to go on tour, compose new songs, sing blues, jazz, be creative and continue living as an artist,” she enthuses.

From his side, Mr Kuzmin feels confident the path has been paved for Parveen Yusufi and many others like her. 

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