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The Maqomat: The Classic Music of Central Asia in times of political and cultural changes

  • Alexander Djumaev
27 March 2018
Lipsius Building
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
First Shashmaqom publication

The maqomat is a regional Central Asian classic and canonical art.

The term covers several kinds of maqom art in contemporary Uzbekistan and Tajikistan: Bukharian Shashmaqom, Khorezmian maqoms, Fergana-Tashkent maqom melodies, Uzbek Shashmaqom, Tajik Shashmaqom. Each kind has its own peculiarities reflecting local music styles and traditions.

The Bukharian Shahsmaqom, which will be discussed in this lecture, was the primary source for all other kinds of maqomat. It appeared in Bukhara in the 18th century. Among various practices for Shashmaqom, the main ones were the court performances at the palaces of the Bukharian rulers (amirs). Court tastes and aesthetics influenced the Shashmaqom artistic and theoretical canons.

The October and Bukharian Revolutions (in 1917 and 1920) resulted in creating a new cultural policy with respect to the Shashmaqom and old musical heritage. The main idea of the Soviet cultural policy was to create the state national Shashmaqom according to the new aesthetic principles and norms: democratization of performing practices of maqoms; introducing a new concert forms of performing (in theaters, clubs, palaces, etc); creation of new big state maqom ensembles (on the state radio and television); aesthetization, desacralization and secularization of Shashmaqom music; state institualization of teaching, keeping and using maqom music; creation of universal and stable (invariable) music texts of the Shashmaqom.

Such work was done both in Soviet Uzbekistan and Tajikistan approximately at the same time – in the 193os-1970s. In both republics the Bukharian Shashmaqom was used as a basic model for the new states national Shashmaqom. A negative result of this policy was that the Bukharian Shashmaqom lost its status as an original, leading and special kind of maqomat in Central Asia with its own old traditions.

New tendencies started after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the new independent Central Asian countries, the following aspectes emerged: new hierarchy formation in the maqomat, renewal of the social artistic role and values of the Bukharian Shashmaqom; revival of the Bukharian Shashmaqom as a whole cycle of vocal and instrumental pieces (maqom repertory) and their performing canons; desecularization with a general movement from secular to sacred philosophical conception of the Shashmaqom; searching for new artistic aesthetic conception of Shashmaqom with a key role of the maqom (bastakori, bastakorlik); reviving traditional methods of teaching and transmission of music knowledge in the system of master-apprentice (ustodshogird).

All these changes will be illustrated by the activities of two well-known contemporary musicians of Shahsmaqom in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – Ari Babakhanov (b. 1934) and Abduvali Abdurashidov (b. 1957).