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  • Central Asia Tour 2003, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Bishkek Concert, 24 April 2003.
    AKDN / Aziz Islamshah
Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Ensemble perform in Central Asia in collaboration with the Aga Khan Music Initiative

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 2 May 2003 - Following critically acclaimed concerts in North America and Europe, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble brought their unique fusion of ancient Silk Road traditions and western classical music to the heart of the Silk Road: in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic; Almaty, Kazakhstan; and Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The concerts were accompanied by master classes - attended by local musicians and students - at which there was a chance to share musical traditions and explore new avenues of artistic expression.

The concerts and master classes are part of efforts by the Aga Khan Music Initiative and the Silk Road Project, Inc. to promote and preserve the music of the region. In Central Asia, music of great antiquity is still passed - by oral transmission - from a handful of masters to small groups of students.

"For many years, I have felt that traditional music played such a critical role in the cultures of Central Asia that it deserved attention and assistance," His Highness the Aga Khan remarked. "The need became all the more apparent after the countries of the region achieved independence and began the process of redefining themselves. For the new countries of Central Asia, the inherent pluralism of their societies can be an asset rather than a liability."

"We live in a world of increasing awareness and interdependence, and I believe that music can act as a magnet to draw people together," said Yo-Yo Ma. "Music is an expressive art that can reach to the very core of one's identity. By listening to and learning from the voices of an authentic musical tradition, we become increasingly able to advocate for the worlds they represent. Further, as we interact with unfamiliar musical traditions we encounter voices that are not exclusive to one community. We discover transnational voices that belong to one world."

Concerts on the tour have featured unique compositions commissioned by the Silk Road Ensemble, including Kazakh composer Bakhtiyar Amanjol's Two Pieces for Cello and Piano, which incorporates elements of Kazakh oral epic recitation. The commissioned works include Tajik composer Tolib Shahidi's The Sufi and the Buddhist Monk, Azerbaijani composer Franghiz Ali-Zadeh's Dervish and Iranian composer Kayhan Kalhor's Blue as the Turquoise Night of Neyshabur.

In Almaty, Kazakhstan, earlier on the tour, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble conducted a master class at Almaty's Kurmangazy National Conservatory. The workshop included performances of traditional music by conservatory students and the Schubert Piano Trio in E flat with Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Gauhar Murzabekova on violin and Jania Aubakirova on piano. It also featured Yo-Yo Ma performing with a local Kazakh rock band, Roksonaki, which employs traditional instruments in its music.

The master classes are designed to create the conditions for musical explorations that cross traditional boundaries. In Bishkek, tradition bearers supported by the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia performed oral-tradition music. The Silk Road Ensemble later performed Indian composer (and member of the Ensemble) Sandeep Das' Tarang and then joined conservatory students in an impromptu and joyous rendition of Scott Joplin's The Entertainer.

To help ensure the preservation and transmission of Central Asia's musical heritage to a new generation of artists and audiences, the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia was established in 2000. The aim was to support efforts to revitalise traditional methods of music education and performance. The collaboration with the Silk Road Project, Inc., which began in 2001, has brought this heritage to the notice of audiences beyond the region -- in Europe, North America and the Middle East.

The Initiative has taken a multi-faceted approach, emphasising preservation - through recordings and archiving - while promoting it through concerts in Central Asia and abroad. Preservation includes support for important musical tradition-bearers, as well as local music centres and schools.

From the beginning of the Music Initiative, His Highness the Aga Khan has insisted that the primary beneficiaries be the communities in the Silk Road countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as Afghanistan and other countries in the region. The purpose of such an approach is to ensure that resources and expertise contribute to the creation of cultural institutions that can be maintained and sustained by local communities themselves.

For further information, please contact:

The Information Department
60270 Gouvieux
Tel: +
Fax: +

The Information Officer
Aga Khan Development Network
1-3 avenue de la Paix
1202 Geneva
Tel: +41 22 909 7277
Fax : +41 22 909 7292

To contact The Silk Road Project:

Jean Davidson, Managing Director
Silk Road Project, Inc.
124 West 24th St., Suite 6A
New York, NY, USA
Tel: 1-212-727-1832
Fax: 1-212-727-1849


The Music Initiative is part of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network. The Trust focuses on culture as a means of enhancing the physical, social and economic revitalisation of communities in the Islamic world. Its programmes include the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Historic Cities Support Programme, the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the on-line resource, the Music Initiative in Central Asia, the Humanities Project and the Museum Unit.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of private, international, non-denominational agencies working to improve living conditions and opportunities for people in the developing world. The Network's organisations have individual mandates that range from the fields of health and education to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise. They collaborate in working towards a common goal - to build institutions and programmes that can respond to the challenges of social, economic and cultural change on an ongoing basis.

The Silk Road Project, Inc. explores the cross-pollination of ideas, cultures, music and art that occurred along the ancient Silk Road-a vast network of trade routes that were active from the first millennium B.C. to the middle of the second millennium A.D. At its height, the Silk Road extended eastward from China and Japan and westward through the oasis cities of Central Asia-Kashgar, Samarkand and Bukhara-to Persia, Turkey, Greece and Italy, serving as a crucible for cultural innovation and the transmission of ideas.

The Silk Road Project, Inc. promotes understanding of the ancient Silk Road and supports new innovative collaborations among artists from Asia, Europe and North America. The Project is led by Artistic Director Yo-Yo Ma, who in the course of 25 years of performing in different parts of the world has become increasingly intrigued by the migration of ideas among communities.