Narration

1.  Here I am, back at last  in Dushanbe, the city of trees, the city of music. It is not far from Samarkand in Uzbekistan where I live, but it took me 12 years to come back to Dushanbe, the capital of the Tajiks and to meet these people. These people are of my own flesh and blood and speak my language though frontiers have separated us. The last time I was here, the Soviet Union had not yet collapsed. 

2.  Now, in the city centre, instead of the statues of Soviet leaders, a new statue soars high in the sky, a statue of a thousand-year-old Samanid Amir: a sign of a new identity. 

3.  But the people have not lost their love of celebration . The woman who sings at the foot of the Amir’s statue speaks of love and the bitterness and sweetness of fate. She reminds me of my mother who has promised herself not to allow any wedding ceremony to happen without songs and music – and her voice still echoes in the weddings of Samarkand. It was she who kept alive the passion of this journey in me and she who believes that Davlatmand’s voice is the voice of Tajikistan – a homeland from which she has been separated. 

4. Now is the time of the Independence Festival and the Barbad Palace is being prepared for the festivities. The arts are also in full swing. Everyone you see here is making music. For music is the national art of the Tajiks.

 5. I had always known Davlatmand as a singer. I did not know that he composes music too. He has composed “Songs that Delight” for an orchestra of national instruments – an orchestra that he himself founded.

 6. Obeyd Rajab who has been working with Davlatmand for many years finds his music has been a strong influence. .

 7. Taleb Shahidi, conductor of the Symphonic Orchestra of Dushanbe, is a close friend of Davlatmand. Davlatmand is not only well known in the traditional music ensembles of Tajikstan. The man who brought “Falak” out of the isolation of mountains onto the stage has also left his impression on the work of great Symphonic composers such as Taleb Shahidi. And that is no wonder, because in Tajik classical music everything is derived from Folklore.

 8.  Shahidi discovered Davlatmand first during his musical education in Moscow.

 9.  I recall the evening when I first saw Davlatmand. It was at a friendly party in London. I had come from Uzbekistan to meet friends and he was returning to Tajikistan from a trip to the United States. Before that evening, I knew him only through his voice. My friends were telling me that once he was invited for an educational concert at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and astonished everyone with his solo performance. But tonight, an Afghan drum player was accompanying him. As alway he was singing verses of Rumi. 

10.  And when I saw him perform in Dushanbe for the first time, he had also arranged a dance performance for the foreign guests of the Independence Festival. 

This dance, like his own music, Falak, is intertwined with the sky and its revolutions. It is a symbolic representation of the rotation of the heavens, and the twists of time and fate, and at the same time an acceptance of the fate that destiny has allotted you.

 Falak: Song of the South 

11. I go to see the man who discovered Davlatmand for the first time – a time when Davlatmand was still a young man and Karim Halimov was in search of young talents for a national contest of music in Falak singing. He visited Davlatmand first in his village, Daghestan. 

12. Falak is a cry. It is the voice of the people in the mountains crying out to God and to the heavens to hear them.  It is their misery and their delight at how the heavens have treated them. This is what Lalah Taless told me when I met her for the first time. To visit Lalah, who is the sole descendant of Poulad Taless, the renowned writer of the Soviet era, I made an appointment with her at her husband’s painting studio – a room in the Union of Tajik Painters. 

13. Falak is the music of the mountain and is sung in different ways from the south of Badakhshan to Khatlan. Gorminj’s museum in Dushanbe is a unique museum of musical instruments of the south particularly that of Gorno Badkhshan. I am supposed to meet Asluddin Nizamov, a researcher of Falak music here. 

Gorminj museum is in fact the private residence of Gorminj himself, who has turned it into a museum and gathered an exceptional collection of Badakhshani instruments there. Gorminj and his ensemble are practising a folk song of Badakhshan for the Independence Festival. 

14. Davlatmand’s devotion to Rumi is rooted in the mystic culture of the Tajiks. Tajikistan is one of the significant centres of Naghshbandi and Ghaderi Sufis and also the homeland of the ancestors of the Persian-speaking Sufi, Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi whose forefathers used to live in the south of Tajikistan by the banks of river Vakhsh and then emigrated to Samarqand and later to Balkh in the north of Afghanistan from where they moved to the present day Turkey. The Tajiks passionately esteem Rumi and the Naghshbandi Sufi poet Abdurrahman Jami. The Tajiki version of Islam is also based upon this spiritual and mystical culture. 

 Under the Big Trees 

15. It is not so long since the people of Dushanbe emerged from a period of civil war and the return of security allowed them to enjoy their old popular traditions: dancing in the streets and gathering together to celebrate.  

16. The last time I was here, it was Navrouz time and the streets were filled with people going out to embrace the spring. 

17. During that Navrouz festival, Ziba’s dance ensemble did a fabulous job. Her dance classes are no longer going on, but beautiful Tajik girls have not forgotten how to dance. When they dance to the Marvigi song of Bukhara, I find that although we have been living in two different countries, yet we have never been apart. 

18. Afzal Shah, the popular singer of northern Tajikistan, is probably the Tajik artist who has most often travelled to Samarkand. During those trips I got to know him better. He is a nationalist singer and from a region that is usually known to be a rival of the South. It is interesting for me to see how he sees Davlatmand. 

19. Davlatmand loves the Rubab very much and he always carries it with him wrapped in a piece of green cloth. He says every instrument has been made by a sage and it was Mawlana Jalal al-Din who made the Rubab. Davlatmand believes that the music of Tajikistan, Iran and Afghanistan are all derived from the same root. The song he chooses to play is an Afghan song with a poem by the Iranian poet, Shahriar, "Tonight the moon is here!"

Towards the South 

20. Davlatmand is always travelling to perform in folk ceremonies held in different cities. On one of his trips to Koulab, I accompany him – our conversation shortens the journey. 

21. And the road goes on. How many times have I travelled on these roads with my father or my classmates to attend summer youth camps during the Soviet period, which were held by the banks of Narak Lake or Vakhsh River. 

22. Davlatmand, who is the singer of Tajik ceremonies, is most familiar with this people folklore songs and poems. 

23. The familiar mountains. We are the people of the mountains. May be that is why Falak, the song of the mountains, is so close to us. Falak is the language of our innermost feelings. It is a language we have learnt from the wind, cliffs and the blue sky.

My Little King is on His Throne 

24. We have reached Koulab. Here is the hometown of Davlatmand and the town of the masters of Falak. It is as if nothing has changed since the years I used to come here  . . . may be some things have changed . . . but the old customs of happiness and pleasure are still in place. 

25. In the ceremonies of the Tajiks, there are always bands and live music. Whether it is wedding ceremonies or a circumcision events like today. Singers are always respected. 

26. Tonight Davlatmand sang for three hours non-stop and apart from the special songs for the party, he sang only Rumi’s poems. He has taken Rumi out of Sufi circles and brought him to the parties of  ordinary people.

Family Ensemble 

27. The next morning, I become more familiar with Davlatmand’s household, family and area in Koulab. The Soviet discipline is still more or less in place there and the social system of town and village carries on as in the past. And as always it is combined with ancient traditions. Change is not that fast here. In Tajikistan, traditions do not die. They are handed down from father to son and from mother to daughter. It is the same with music in Davlatmand’s family who have been working together for years. 

Whoever Hurts Us May God Be Kind to Them 

28. Along with Davlatmand, we go to visit the town’s mausoleum, which is the most important mausoleum in southern Tajikistan. The man who is buried here with his wife and children is a Sufi poet whose poetry demonstrates the basis of the mystic philosophy of the Tajiks. 

Falak: Natural Opera

29. Falak is not sung by men. There are many songs which can only be sung by women. The most renowned singer among them who still lives in Koulab is Golchehreh Sadeghova, whose voice rivals  Davlatmand’s in power.

I wish I Could Dance Such

30. Here near the border of Afghanistan is Daghestan, the birthplace of Davlatmand. It is incredible that beyond this border, until very recently and perhaps even now, the atmosphere has been so harsh and hostile to music and dance. 

31. Davlatmand has received the Rudaki memorial medial for arts during the Independence Festival. The people of his village have gathered here to welcome him. Many of the children of this village are famous in the arts and their parents are proud of them.

I wish I could dance such. Here, if you do not know how to dance, you will be embarrassed. There is no difference between men and women: dance is the natural delight in life. This is the jovial ancient Aryan culture. Southern Tajikistan has preserved one of the purest traditions of this culture. 

32. They offer me a local dress called “Chakan”. With those big flowers on red satin, it looks like a party dress. Chakan is also a dancing dress. 

33.1. Along with the women and men of the village, we go to the schoolyard. Girls of the village school have prepared a dance and Nazar Ali, one of Davlatmand’s brothers sings in the ceremonies. 

33.2. In my mind, I travel to Bukhara and Samarkand. I recall the festivals and the happy moments. There are not many countries in which dance is so popular and esteemed and dancers are so respected. Perhaps it’s partly because of the Russian influence but it runs deeper than that. 

33.3. Dancing in a circle and whirling is the basis of Tajik dance. It is also its climax. This climax comes after a high and heavy tempo [tempo can only be fast or slow?] and changes the dance to the mystical circle of the Sufi dance. 

Millstone 

34. We reach Davlatmand’s paternal house, where he spent his childhood. His brother Morad Ali lives in it now.Returning to the father’s house brings back many memories of his father.

35. Davlatmand lost his father at a very young age. About 40 years have passed since. But he still looks up to his father and he misses him.

36. His mother also lies there. Tajik mothers always rule the heart of their sons.

Apple Tree Garden

37. Davlatmand started singing Falak here and then developed it into a national music. But traditional Falak singers still continue the traditional method of Falak such as Morad Ali, Davlatmand’s brother, who has never left his village. 

38. Although Davlatmand has travelled to many places and journeyed around the world and learnt about life and arts in the cities, yet his world is still here.