Since the attainment of independence, Uzbekistan has seen dramatic changes in all areas of its music culture, with the revival of original national traditions and spiritual values. “We draw on the rich spiritual culture of the people of Uzbekistan, its unique history and invaluable philosophical and moral heritage, and we are open to reciprocal cultural exposure, dialogue and enrichment”, declared Islam Karimov, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan (1, p.133).
At the beginning of the XXI century, major changes have occurred in the country’s national music culture. Contest-performances such as Uzbekiston Vatanim Manim [Uzbekistan, My Homeland], Asrlar Sadosi [Sound of the Centuries], Asrlar Navosi [Melody of the Centuries], Yangi Avlod [New Generation], and Nihol [New Growth] provided good opportunity to discover new talents.
Participation of young musicians and vocalists in international contests and festivals, ranking high and taking grand prizes, is the proof of keen attention given to arts in Uzbekistan. International music festivals held in Uzbekistan, such as Sharq Taronalari [Melodies of the East] and that of symphonic music, gained worldwide recognition, facilitating the exchange of experience and the establishment of international contacts between musicians and music culture promoters.
It is gratifying that the multifaceted and versatile art of Uzbek musicians, performers, conductors, researchers and educators has excited interest among their foreign colleagues, eager to embrace the Uzbek experience. Positive evaluation was given to the Museum of Musical Instruments Catalogue, Milly Cholghu [Traditional Instruments], compiled by the present author; it has provided methodological framework for creating similar catalogues in the East.
Until the 1990s, Uzbekistan had two professional orchestras: the State Academic Orchestra of Traditional Instruments named after Tukhtasin Jalilov, created in 1938; and the State Traditional Instruments Orchestra named after Doni Zakirov, its history starting in 1957. In 1991, through the efforts of Professor Firuza Abdurakhimova, Merited Artist of Uzbekistan, the country’s first chamber orchestra of traditional Uzbek instruments, “Sogdiana”, was founded; it evolved rapidly and shortly gained recognition not only at home, but also among music community around the world, which is evidenced by its tours to countries such as Russia (1994), Federal Republic of Germany (1995), and Spain (1996). Besides, the band took part in the VII International Festival of Arab Music in Cairo (1998), the IX International Music Festival in Freiburg (1998), as well as in music events in Munich (1999), and in India (2006).
In November 2013, in the Applied Arts of Uzbekistan Museum, at an exhibition called “Arts and Crafts of Uzbekistan: Yesterday and Today”, in the framework of the Qomusim – Bakhtim Manim [Constitution Assures My Happiness] Project, another music band was officially presented: “Navruz”, the chamber orchestra of traditional Uzbek instruments led by Sherzod Umarov. This was made possible due to support from the Ministry for Culture and Sports of Uzbekistan, the Applied Arts of Uzbekistan Museum, Directorate for Academic and Folk Art Companies of the Tashkent Province, Hunarmand Association, and the Tashkent State School of National Dance and Choreography.
The “Navruz” band unites 17 gifted performers playing instruments such as nai, koshnai, surnai, chang, kanun, prima rubab, Kashgar rubab, Afghan rubab, prima dutar, alto dutar, bass dutar, gijak, and doira. All bandsmen are winners of international and domestic contests, who mastered their art well. Among them are graduates and students of the Oriental Music Department of the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan, contributing to the development of not only instrumental art, but also orchestral performance on traditional Uzbek instruments.
The concert began with the performance of Tuyona, a nuptial piece written by the band leader Sherzod Umarov, who introduced the participants of the ceremony and its foreign guests to the voices of karnai, sunrai, doira and nagora. Winners of the national contests Muzaffar Bozorov and Nuriddin Safarov performed Durdona piece by composer Tursun Azimov for Kashgar rubab and orchestra. Performing range, instrument timbre and refined nai playing technique was demonstrated by Anvar Khusanov, national contest prize-winner who performed a virtuoso piece “Joke” by J.-S. Bach with orchestra. The audience was greatly impressed by Tanovar, a lyrical dancing song performed by Adolat Kuldosheva, winner of Nihol State Prize, accompanied by orchestra and the national contest winner Vakhob Kurbanov who played kanun, performing Sharkona Navo tune by Kamiljan Shermatov. The listeners enjoyed the soft and enchanting voice of the instrument. The performing range of Afghan rubab was demonstrated by Ihtiyar Abdunabiev, international and domestic contest prize-winner, who played a piece called “Fantasy” based on a Flower Dance piece by usto Muhammad Umar. The concert concluded with the performance of a dance company with “Potpourri” orchestra playing melodies of the people of Central Asia.
To the participants and foreign guests the “Navruz” band’s young conductor Sherzod Umarov presented distinctive melodies, technical capabilities, and diverse forms of traditional oriental instruments. In an interview to the Journal he said: “The band has been named “Navruz” to delight people around and cheer them up with its beautiful performances all year round”. Sherzod Umarov has twenty years of experience playing bass dutar in the “Sogdiana” orchestra. From his mentor, Firuza Abdurakhimova, he learned the secrets of conducting an orchestra, made orchestrations and finally decided to create a new highly professional band with a unique performing style.
Communicating with singers and gifted performers, and turning to folk melodies, contemporary jazz and ethnic jazz music paved the way to new harmonies and unusual timbres. Thus, together with Ilkhom Abdullaev from the Azerbaijan National Cultural Centre, the performer on saz and accordion, the Uzbek television recorded a concert program compiled of the pieces written by Azerbaijani composers, with orchestra. Now it is frequently broadcast on the Baku City television channel. One may also note collaboration with “Guldasta” company of the Uygur Cultural Centre (“The Uighur Tunes”).
The “Navruz” band is very active on the creative music scene, vividly demonstrating the development of traditional Uzbek instrumental orchestra performing art in the country and contributing to the cause of bringing up young generation in the spirit of loving their native land, respecting and treasuring the priceless cultural heritage of the nation.