This issue of Ethnomusicology Forum focuses on the concept of identity, a very fashionable one in social sciences (including ethnomusicology), even more when dealing with Central Asia and its post-Soviet context. However, the authors provide essential clues for the analysis of identity issues in Central Asia in general, and from an ethno-musicological point of view in particular. The four authors offer different views on the relationship between music and identity, each of them favouring one analytical aspect and dealing with a defined historical and geographical area. The diversity of proposed analyses of the links between music (and culture) and identity is one of the assets of this collection of articles, even if all papers deal with political power and identity construction, and describe musical adaptations initiated by identity claims. The use of music in the building of national identities in Central Asian countries is underlined, and the general question of the issue is, as H. L. Sakata stresses in her preface, “[to] reflect on how the resulting changes in political power and authority affected the music and identity of the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Afghans, and, more generally, the Central Asians”.
Razia Sultanova, the Guest Editor of the present issue, states in her introduction (“Music and Identity in Central Asia: Introduction,” 131-42, map, bibliography) two geographical definitions of Central Asia: an historical and greater one including parts of Iran, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, etc., and a contemporary one, narrower and consisting of the five former Soviet republics of the area. R. Sultanova remarks two phenomena: “the performer and the event” which consist, in her view, in “focal points of changing national identities.” She thus stresses the importance of political positioning of singers throughout the Soviet period, giving examples taken from Uzbekistan, from purist Mulla Tuychi to controversial Sherali Juraev and pop star Yulduz Usmanova. R. Sultanova emphasises the leading importance of wedding rituals in Central Asian culture, the political role of music in toy celebration, the key role of the singer in this event, and moreover his “archetypal role” in Central Asian cultures.
Jean During’s contribution (“Power, Authority and Music in the Cultures of Inner Asia,” 143-64, bibliography) studies several aspects of power relationships between authority and music, throughout history, in Inner Asia (including Iran and Azerbaijan), and the impacts on music itself in terms of “external changes, [which] result from a direct intervention of non-musical authorities (p. 144).” J. During notes that influence of political authorities on musicians have always existed throughout the world, but today technical progress give more power to authorities for making cultural heritage a political tool. He gives examples about the change of alphabets and their consequences on languages and thus music, altogether with modifications of musical intervals in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The analyses of the debate on language itself (Persian then Persian-Tajik or Uzbek) for the singing of the Shash-maqam repertoire in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan highlights the issue of writing in the fixation of identity. J. During shows that “ in recent years the movement towards mono-ethnic repertoires has become progressively stronger due to the pressure of state directives, precisely because it deals with the sensitive question of cultural and national identity.” The author comes back on Soviet directives for traditional music ― what he calls “collectivisation” (p. 148) of music: big orchestras for collective practice, modifications of musical instruments, all of this in order to “academicise” music and control cultural and artistic practices. J. During asks how the Soviet model can nowadays stay attractive for musicians, and supposes that the state apparatus, on one hand, allows the musician to do other non-official activities on the other hand. Speaking about the “tradition of power” (p. 153) consisting of the orchestra, as well as the traditional political role of the bard, he explores the aesthetic limits in the process of change in musical traditions, especially in nomadic ones (sedentarisation) and about intervals (“the favourite area for the exercise of power,” p. 158). J. During concludes this rich article on the “ethnomusicologists’ duty” (p. 160) to take position, and lead action to protect traditional music and artists.
Alexander Djumaev (“Musical Heritage and National Identity in Uzbekistan,” 165-84, ill., bibliography) gives an innovative and well-analysed contribution to the study of cultural identity in Central Asia. He explains and details the formation, construction and use by politico-cultural ideologies, of “musical heritage” concept in Uzbekistan, from the 1920s to our days. Beyond the description of musical change, he analyses what the use of this concept says of Uzbek society and of its specific relationship to the past and to modernity. A. Djumaev defines three stages of formation and use of the concept of heritage: the pre-revolutionary one (the Jadids’ ideology), the Soviet one, and the post-independence one. Even if these three moments have had different ideologies of “heritage,” they are interrelated and have commonly led to the building of a “national musical identity (p. 166).” The figure of ‘Abd al-Rauf Fitrat is fully discussed as he is considered by A. Djumaev as the “father of the national model of Uzbek musical culture and a founder of the concept of national identity in musical culture.” The status of the Shash-maqam repertoire as classical, traditional, and national (i.e., Uzbek, not Tajik or Persian), derives directly from Fitrat’s statements about the “ancient (qadim)” and Islamic culture, ideas that were transformed by Soviet policy in terms of a meros (میراث, heritage) which became millyi (national) after 1991. The whole process of classicisation and nationalisation of the musical repertoire is well studied and allows A. Djumaev to re-define essential notions of ethno-musicological studies: qadim (old), traditional, classical music, etc. He points out how all these qualifiers have emerged and acquired, along with Fitrat’s work, a “sanctified status.” Music has been acting as an “object for ideological manipulation” (p. 175) and has thus become a national cultural heritage. Finally, A. Djumaev takes the example of national melodies (milliy ashulalar), now considered as part of national heritage because of their (p. 178) “national-psychological personality type,” which should be protected, in official policy’s view, from foreign influences.
Federico Spinetti ― “Open Borders (Tradition and Tajik Popular Music: Questions of Aesthetics, Identity and Political Economy),” 185-211, ill., bibliography, discography ― explores another facet of the identity issue: He focuses on regional Tajik identities and their appearance in musical styles, and in the processes of appropriation in Tajik popular music. Following Jean During, F. Spinetti tackles the question of change, but not in terms of dictation by external authority, but more in the context of a chosen representation of tradition by musicians. On classification of musical repertoires, Spinetti first states that Soviet practice of European classical music’s integration in traditional musical field are now considered as traditional: they then should not be considered by researchers as separated from the “tradition” (Spinetti also considers that there is no musical practice that has escaped Soviet influence). He uses Bourdieu to define a “Soviet aesthetic habitus” that “has shaped to a large degree the assumption according to which contemporary Tajik musicians and audience alike identify ‘tradition’ in music” (p. 188). Even if this view forgets about some rural musical traditional practice, it does not take apart musical worlds that are connected in practice, just as new trends in music link past (traditional) to modern (pop music), thus “expanding, without fracturing, the very notion of ‘tradition’ (p. 190).” F. Spinetti offers examples of what he calls “hybridisation” (p. 191) between qadima (past times) and hozira (contemporaneous times), which is also seen by musicians as essential in the thinking of tradition. F. Spinetti emphasises the importance of weddings in political economy of musicians, and studies local patronages in order to analyse identity in popular music contexts. He argues that there is no opposition between city and countryside, but rather a back and forth movement between them. Considering local identities claim, he identifies local musical styles and speaks about a “homeland ideology (p. 201)” built by popular music. He concludes that “hybridisation and multiple cultural flows in Tajikistan have seen importantly paralleled by indigenisation and assertion of local identities”.
John Baily, in the last paper of this issue (“So Near, So Far: Kabul’s Music in Exile,” 213-33, ill., bibliography), tries to define the “role” (p. 213) of music in asserting an Afghan identity in situation of exile. He compares two situation: the one of Afghans who have emigrated to Peshawar (Pakistan) following several waves (1985, 1992, 2000); and the one of Afghans exiled in Fremont, CA since the early 1980s. Comparison is based on the relationship entertained by society with music and musicians in such situations, and the social status of musicians, matched to the “before-the-war” data, when music was tolerated and very present in daily-life, still not entirely accepted, and social status of musicians were very low, and separated between the “professionals” (kesbi, higher status) and “amateurs” (shawqi). Lively describing the life of musicians in Peshawar and the re-building of their Kabuli social organisation in the Khalil House, a great building devoted to musicians, J. Baily underlines that here music is kept alive in order to stay connected to the past times one wants to come back to. It has a therapeutic role: the “classic role for culture in exile (p. 230).” In Fremont, things are very different, as young generations have necessarily cut with the traditional roots that their parents are still in search for. They create a “new Afghan music” which is entirely inspired by the “old” one but uses simpler poetry, and experience keyboard. J. Baily states that while their parents still listen to old Afghan music as a remembrance and nostalgia of the past, these young Afghans seek for integration, and produce a music which will help them in this regard.
This issue considers identity thematic in music through several approaches, and it ends up in a complete analysis of the concept of identity by ethno-musicological tools. Jean During prefers a musicological approach, which leads him to think about the political authorities’ engagement in the acculturation process. John Baily, though considering social places rather than political ones, looks also for identified musical features of culture. Both consider change in relation to an ideal traditional feature (mainly the past one) which would be the one carrying “traditional identity,” then subject to official policies, or to changes of identity in context of migration, and finally producing another identity. A. Djumaev leads a study of historical ethnomusicology, brilliantly examining the concept of heritage, too often considered a natural vernacular one by Western ethnomusicologists. He demonstrates that this concept is a political creation and that its use has always obeyed to ideologies. This should lead ethnomusicologists to think about their own way of considering “heritage.” F. Spinetti also questions categories by demonstrating the multiple social fields invested by popular music in Tajikistan: musical categories promulgated by the state, in order to build limits of identity, are “dismantled” (p. 203). All these papers then link the identity question to political ideologies facing social realities: they demonstrate that music stays a very relevant way to penetrate and analyse socio-political fields.