Sevara's acclaimed 2002 debut Yol Bolsin ('Where Are You Going') is a collection of traditional, folk and peasant songs from Uzbekistan, a country that formally broke with the Soviet Union in 1991 and has worked hard to reassert its rich cultural identity ever since. Music is a priority: imbued with echoes of Persian classical music and the meditational Sufi tradition, traditional Uzbek music takes the form of age-old poetic songs called maqams. Many such maqams are as well-known in Uzbekistan as those of the country's now booming - and gloriously cheesy - pop industry. Within which, coincidentally, Sevara Nazarkhan happens to be a major player.
"Our youth listen to a lot of traditional music. These are songs they grew up with. We don't dismiss them as boring as some Western cultures might." Sevara pauses, sighs. "Traditional music has been tested by time and generations, too," she offers. "It is always travelling and developing, which in turn pushes me to go further and experiment with other sounds."
Some of the traditionalists were surprised by her choice of material - folk, Sufi and peasant songs - on 'Yol Bolsin'. The first track, Yor-Yor is a traditional song to a bride about moving into the home of her husband and his parents. According to custom, this song's lyrics are improvised, but Sevara sings a popular version, which advises the new bride not to feel like a stranger. If music is a social document, songs like Yor-Yor represent the halfway point between the city and the rural countryside. Other songs on the album are dominated by natural imagery: the white snake in Sevara's favourite song Galdir, or the steps that become flowers in 'Yol Bolsin' - symbols for heartache and freedom.
Today when Uzbek women get together in towns and villages to sing and socialise, many of their songs are about alienation, separation and unrequited love, but then women's emotions under Islam are usually about watching or being watche....... więcej