Aga Khan Music Initiative
The principal activity of the Music Initiative’s Documentation and Dissemination Programme is its partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage for the production of Music of Central Asia, a ten-volume CD and DVD anthology of Central Asian musical traditions aimed at both specialist and non-specialist audiences worldwide.
The partnership with the Smithsonian grew from the Music Initiative’s collaboration on the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which featured over 400 musicians and artisans from 25 countries in an ebullient celebration of the Silk Road and its cultural legacy. The Music Initiative also collaborated with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings on the production of a double CD linked to the festival, The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan, which served as a prototype for the present
Music of Central Asia focuses on musicians who represent both a mastery of their own tradition and a spirit of innovation expressed through new approaches to performance style, repertory and technique. An example of such a traditionalist-innovator is the Kyrgyz musician Nurlanbek Nyshanov, leader of Ensemble Tengir-Too, which is featured on volume one of Music of Central Asia (Tengir-Too: Mountain Music from Kyrgyzstan).
Nurlanbek Nyshanov’s life in music was shaped both by his childhood in Naryn, a mountainous region in northern Kyrgyzstan, and by his experience as a student in the music education system created in Central Asia during the Soviet era. A graduate of Kyrgyzstan’s State Institute of Arts (now the National Conservatory), Nyshanov draws on his compositional skills to craft striking arrangements for small ensembles of repertoires typically performed by solo players and singers. Unlike Soviet-era folk orchestras and consorts, however, Tengir-Too performs on traditional Kyrgyz instruments and works within the boundaries of conventional Kyrgyz musical forms, textures and genres. The group has attracted an enthusiastic following both in the West and in Kyrgyzstan’s competitive free-market music economy, and is making steady progress at sustaining a livelihood from concert performances at home.
To date, nine volumes of Music of Central Asia have been released:
The DVDs that are an integral part of each release do not simply document musical performance, but explore the lives of the featured musicians and the source of their inspiration and musical ideas.
Almost all musicians featured in the series also participate in the International Performance and Outreach and Supporting Tradition-Bearers Programmes. In future years, the Initiative plans to reformat all CD-DVD releases for distribution in Central Asia, either on CD or cassette, and make their contents available on a dedicated website that will include educational tools and on-line training guides.
Archiving, Publication and Curriculum Development
The Music Initiative’s future plans include collaborating with the University of Central Asia to create a state-of-the-art research archive devoted to Central Asian music. This archive, physically located in Central Asia, will become accessible via the Internet as its holdings are digitised. The Music Initiative will also collaborate with the University of Central Asia to launch a publication series comprising critical editions of important musical repertoires and historical treatises, as well as current ethnographic and interpretive studies. A website that supports educational outreach activities connected to the International Performance and Outreach Programme will include curriculum materials and teacher guides for use in secondary schools in the West. A separate collaborative curriculum initiative is underway to produce a university-level course on Central Asian music and expressive culture suitable for implementation throughout Central Asia itself.
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