SOAS University of London

Department of Music, School of Arts

Tashkent - Uzbek Music of Celebration

The group 'Tashkent' is famous for its lively and, at times, raucous performances on karnay two-metre long horns, surnay shawms, doira frame drums, and nog'ora kettledrums.

The group was established by Nodir Raimov at the beginning of 1998 with the aim to preserve traditional styles of Uzbek music. The repertoire has its roots in tradition, being particularly associated with the city of Andijan in the Ferghana Valley, but since independence in 1991 has become part of every Uzbek celebration and festival.

The Instruments 

The Uzbek traditional wind and percussion instruments represented on this album are suited to outdoor performance. While the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, was prominent in the development of surnay, doira and nagíora repertoire, the karnay came from Andijan, the city famous for its karnay makers. Abbos Kasimov was the first to bring these instruments into local entertaining genres, 'Estrada' , lifting them from tradition to national importance. Whereas before independence the instruments were not taken seriously, and none were part of the conservatoire curriculum, they now became key to every important event. Musicians now moved around the karnays in a circle, pointing those beautiful horns to the sky, intertwining their bodies, showing off their powerful sound and shining beauty, dancing and playing. 

  • The karnay is a ceremonial brass trumpet two metres long. Playing the trumpet is a serious matter, because of its strong cultural, historical and religious connotations. So, before touching an instrument for the very first time, the musician should put on new clothes to symbolise the start of a new journey and a new relationship. The instrument should be cleaned and polished daily. It should never be stepped over, or stored under a table or a bed, but should be kept upright. The mouthpiece should never be placed on the ground. The karnay should be held carefully, as if it is a baby. When played, the bell of the karnay should point east, to Mecca from whence Judgement Day is to be announced. Pointing the bell to the sky is symbolic of communicating one-to-one with God, and then with the people. The instrument has particular parts: the bell (kaaba), the melon-shaped large and prominent round joint (handylyak), the first section of the body (miyencha), a small round joint (kichkina handalyak), a second body section (dahana), and a mouthpiece (tarsak).
  • The surnay is a double-reed conical oboe or shawm that produces a buzzing sound. The two reeds are bound together and fixed to the top, the sound being generated by vibrating air blown through the gap between the two blades. 
  • The doira is a round frame drum. A membrane usually of cow skin is stretched over a wooden hoop-shaped frame to form the body. On the inner face of the hoop are anything from 40 to 100 steel rings which make a variety of percussive rattles. Different pitched strikes and different resonances are produced by striking the drum's membrane closer to the frame or closer to the centre. The doira is made in different sizes, ranging from 15 cm to 42 cm in diameter  
  • The nog'ora is a clay kettledrum, with a top-mounted membrane generally made of goatskin. It produces a variety of timbres, and is usually used to accompany wind instruments. 

The karnay and doira have particularly long histories. They have been well known since the time of the fifteenth- century Uzbek ruler, Tamberlaine the Great. In the past, every celebration, victory, New Year, and court event was publicly announced by these instruments, their powerful and threatening voices roaring like dinosaurs. Today, their thrilling sounds remind audiences of such celebrated times in history, and they are used for state celebrations including Mustakilik (Independence Day) and Navruz (New Year), as well as in family celebrations such as toy (weddings). Indeed, no Uzbek celebration is complete without the sounds of the these drums and horns.

The Musicians

  • Nodir Rahimov (b.1975, Tashkent) (karnay, surnay) founded 'Tashkent' in 1998 and is the group leader. He has been playing karnay since his childhood, learning most of his repertoire from his teacher (usto) Sadullo Tursunmatov. In 2003, he took part in the London Sinfonietta project 'Trumpets' performing in Peter Wiegold's 'The Great Wheel'. 
  • Hojimurad Ziyamukhamedov (b. 1967) (karnay) has toured Russia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, and Turkey, perform- ing in many festivals. He began playing the karnay in 1980 and his teacher was Hakimjon Holmatov. 
  • Dilmurad Mirzaev (b.1979) (karnay, surnay) graduated from the Tashkent Pedagogical Institution. He has per- formed in the company 'Uzbekraqs' and in the groups 'Zarravshon' and 'Abbos', touring abroad in Britain, Korea, Germany, Taiwan and Malaysia. 
  • Qobiljon Sharipov (b.1990) (karnay) learned to play from Nodir Raimov. He has toured Russia and Kazakhstan. 
  • Azmiddin Askhanov (b. 1976) (doira, nog'ora) has played the nog'ora since 1988, learning it from the teachers Kahoraka and Shuhrataka. He has toured Russia. 
  • Khojimurad Safarov (b. 1961) (doira) learned to play the doira from his brother Shodivoi Safarov, and later, in 1987, graduated from the Tashkent State Music College. He met Tashpulat Ashrathujaev while studying, and continued to train until 1996. He has performed with the People's Artist of Uzbekistan Munojat Yulchieva and has toured extensively abroad, playing in  Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, India, Pakistan and Britain.