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.
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.
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
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.
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
Rajab who has been working with Davlatmand for many years finds his
music has been a strong influence. .
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.
Shahidi discovered Davlatmand first during
his musical education in Moscow.
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.