WORLD HERITAGE VOCAL QUEEN
Munojatkhon Yolchieva – vocal
Shavkat Mukhamedov– rubab
Khodjimurad Safarov – doira
Dilfuzakhon Khaydarova – dutar
Marufjon Khalitov – gidjak
The former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan lies in the heart of central Asia, sandwiched between Kazakhstan and Turkménistan. This area’s diverse history is reflected in traditional music which shows strong connections with Persian and Arabic music – in its rhythms, the use of Sufi poetry and the classical maqâm repertoire which informs even contemporary modern bestekâr (performer-composers) who continue to update its traditions.
The leading performer of classical Uzbek music and its Persian-language cousin Shashmaqâm is the singer Munadjat Yulchieva. She was born in 1960 in the Ferghâna valley near Tashkent, and from an early age it was obvious she had a great gift as a singer. This nearly resulted in her being channelled into a career as an opera singer, but she was inexorably drawn towards the slow, aching music of her own ancient culture, something that seemed almost pre-ordained by her name, which means ‘ascent to God’ or simply ‘prayer’.
For almost her entire career as a traditional singer, she has been associated with the prominent bestekâr Shavkat Mirzaev, a master of the long necked rabâb lute. Her repertoire includes many of his compositions, and she usually performs with his ensemble. Typically the group use local instruments such as the dutar (two stringed lute), the tanbur (3-stinged lute), a gidjak spike fiddle, doira frame drum, ney flute and at times the chang zither. Those lucky enough to attend one of her rare concerts abroad will witness a sumptuously dressed performer of startling gravitas and charisma, with long pigtails trailing down to her waist.
Only two recordings of her music are widely available – the first for the French label Ocora (1994) and the most recent (1997) on Germany’s Network label, which has the subtitle A Haunting Voice.
The eminent Uzbek musician Muhammadjan Mirzaev eloquently described her voice as “like a flying dove, turning over in the currents of warm spring air,” and of her own attitude to singing, she simply says the following: “It should come from the soul, from the heart”.
Jon Lusk, November 2003 / BBC