By Sakini Mohd Said
Bernama reporter Sakini Mohd Said recently had the opportunity to cover the 12th edition of the prestigious Sharq Taronalari International Music Festival, courtesy of the Uzbekistan Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
The six-day festival (Aug 25 to 30) took place on the grounds of the historic Registan Square in Samarkand.
SAMARKAND (Bernama) -- Neither wild horses nor the scorching summer heat could keep Jamila away from the 12th Sharq Taronalari International Music Festival here.
To catch the 7 pm performance, the 61-year-old retired civil servant, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, had to leave her house as early as 2 pm so that she could secure a "front-row" seat at the venue.
In fact, the event organisers encouraged the audience to turn up by 4 pm as all of them were required to go through stringent security checks and after 5 pm, no one was allowed into the venue.
"This traditional music festival is held every two years and I wouldn't want to miss it. I'm here early as I want to get the best seat," said Jamila, speaking in the Uzbek language.
Having heard of Malaysia, she was delighted to meet this writer who, with the help of Google translate, was somewhat able to make out what she was saying.
Fortunately for this writer, her communication issues were later resolved with the help of Rozimurotova Nilufar, who is studying English at Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages; and Javlonbek Roziqov, international relations officer at the Republic of Uzbekistan's Ministry of Culture.
According to Jamila, Sharq Taronalari -- which means Melodies of the Orient -- reminded her of the stories related to her by her family elders.
"We all love music... in the ancient days, people of all cultures from various parts of the world used to gather at Registan Square to sing and play traditional instruments," she said.
Held here biennially under the auspices of UNESCO at the tail end of August, Sharq Taronalari mainly features the traditional music, dance and songs of Central Asian countries.
The 12th edition of the festival saw the participation of 340 artistes from 75 countries, including Argentina, Fiji, Latvia, the United States, Spain, Estonia and India.
Tagged as one of the biggest musical events in Central Asia, it was officiated by Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Set in Registan Square, which is fringed by beautiful madrasahs (religious school) and minarets built between the 15th and 17th centuries, Sharq Taronalari is viewed as a platform to safeguard the traditional music of eastern countries, encourage new talents, promote world peace and friendship, and strengthen cooperation between Uzbekistan and other countries.
On why the prestigious music event was held in Samarkand and not in Uzbekistan's capital city Tashkent, UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said Samarkand -- the nation's second-largest city -- was chosen as it boasts a rich history in Islamic civilisation.
"Samarkand was where some of the most powerful empires were born and also disappeared. It was a place where some of the greatest material and intellectual wealth passed through and which was traversed by representatives of all nations, cultures and religions.
“The name Samarkand is enough to transport us on a journey through time because the (ancient) city tells us something that we all universally share,” she said in her speech at the festival's opening ceremony.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, Samarkand was founded in the seventh century BC and used to be known as the Pearl of the East as it was once the pulse of the historical Silk Route between China and the Mediterranean.
Its strategic location in the Zerafshan river valley and on the Silk Route led to thousands of traders stopping there to deal in spices, silk and porcelain. It also became a melting pot of cultures and served as a centre for the learning of new knowledge and development of music.
The discovery of a 3,000-year-old flute by archaeologists in Samarkand was proof of Central Asia's deep-rooted musical culture. It was in view of this that former Uzbekistan president Islam Karimov came up with the idea of hosting Sharq Taronalari, the first of which took place in 1997.
"Registan Square (festival venue) is the heart of Samarkand. It was a centre of crafts and trade long before the Mongol invasion (in 1220)," said Sharq Taronalari executive director Farhod Djuraev, adding that the music festival which Uzbekistan has held 12 times has grown into an important brand for the nation.
UNITE HEARTS AND SOULS
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan president Mirziyoyev in his opening address said each and every performer who graced Sharq Taronalari glorified the high ideals of humanism which unites people regardless of their nationality, language and religion.
"As a unique humanistic phenomenon, the art of music has endless possibilities in terms of upbringing and comprehensively developing a new generation. Youths who are into art have a good attitude towards life and show high respect for national customs and traditions, as well as universal values,” he added.
This year's Sharq Taronalari saw the highest award, the Grand Prix, being awarded to Uzbek music group Mekhrinigor Abdurashidova, who received USD$10,000 (RM41,800).
The first prize went to artistes from Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan; the second prize Turkmenistan and Mongolia; and third prize Tajikistan and Russia.
Translated by Rema Nambiar