Practicing with Shaxzot and Oscar. They start by teaching me the
Uzbek classical songs that we will perform at the concert.
I love the music. It’s similar to Persian music. Until Iran is
liberated and I can go study and play there, this might be the next
Everyone seems pleased! Especially when we start working the bass
clarinet into the mix. And they are all about improvising. So, what
could go wrong?
I teach them two of the traditional Iraqi songs that we do with
Charming Hostess from the Bowls Project album.
Anatoly says: “Yes, this is good. But you must play Western songs that
the audience will recognize.”
I say: “I don’t usually sing.”
Anatoly, “Yes, you see you will sing.”
Since I’ve demurred my whole life from learning anything functional
about chord structures, imparting to Shaxzot the secret theories of
blues, jazz and rock, via the non-musical Anatoly as translator has
been interesting. Maybe my mangled approach will spawn a novel
musical movement here in Uzbekistan!
After the practice sesh, I had a lesson with the surnay master. Surnay
is a super loud double reed instrument, like a zurna. He blasted out
my ears. It was awesome.
He had two surnays, over a hundred years old each.
After intense negotiations, it’s agreed upon that I will put a
downpayment on a new surnay and the maker will start and have it ready
by the end of the week.
Today I bought a chapay – a long purple velvet coat with
sorta-matching/clashing purple skull cap! I think I got a decent price
— $85,000 som.
I found out later that musicians are supposed to wear the shiny stripy
coats cinched at the waist with a fashionable stripy belt. And maybe
not the skull cap either, but one of the other kinds of Uzbek hats –
the black pointy kind. But dammit, I look good and I’m not going to
buy another coat.
Today we went to the university and practiced freebird, it don’t mean
a thing, heart break hotel and saints go marching in. We’ll pull it
together. Or not. Either way…
Then Rafiq “I am capitalist” took me to see his 21 hectare farm – just
in case I didn’t infer from the mountains cash in his office that he
makes a lot of money.
Cows. Goats. Dogs. Horses. Rows of corn, onions, tomatoes, apple
trees. Fish pond. Lots of croaky frogs hopping. Mules braying. Rafik
wants to build an “agricultural tourism” hotel with internet, sauna,
The next day Rafiq asks me, “Yesterday, fishing?” To which I answer,
“Yes, your fish pond was very nice.” But what he asking was, “Today we
will go to the fish restaurant?” I figured that out when arrived at a
restaurant with some dead fish hanging from their tails out front.
Rafiq is a fantastic tour operator; however, more often than not he
confuses “today” “tomorrow” and “yesterday.” So, when he says
something happened yesterday, maybe that’s what you’re doing tomorrow.
Or vice versa. Or who knows. Once you get the gist of this, things
start making a lot more sense. As a service to him, I’m trying to
clarify this for him, since he is a tour operator and all. This is a
big joke for us now. Incidentally, the huge bucket of fried carp is
delicious. And I don’t get sick afterwards. Winning!
Then back to Rafiq’s office to write program notes, press releases and
my welcome speech (everything must be translated into Uzbek, Russian
and Tajik). Then to my hotel for dinner, podcasts, reading Virgina
Woolf (“Orlando”), practicing. Gotta practice my singing… oy.