Tag Archives: Uzbek music

Artist Profiles: Abbos Kosimov

Abbos Kosimov

Abbos Kosimov is a master doyra player and innovator in the history of frame drumming. Both a traditional master and a contemporary trandsetter, Kosimov has expanded the range and repertory of Uzbekistan’s primary percussion instrument, to the point where all younger players replicate his techniques.

Kosimov grew up in a family of musicians in Uzbekistan. His father played santoor (hammer dulcimer) and his brother the ney (flute). Kosimov started taking doyra lessons at age 10 with Tochi Nogamo, the leading teacher of the tradition.

Up to the age of 20, Kosimov focused on classic rhythms and solos. He mastered the fundamentals quickly, and then branched out on his own, leading him in unanticipated directions. “Back home in Uzbekistan,” Kosimov said, “I practiced a lot, 6 or 7 hours a day. I listened to jazz music, drum set players, conga players, jembe players, tabla, and I mixed it all together and put it on doyra.”

Today, Kosimov lives in Sacramento, California, and plays with the group Sounds and Rhythms of Afghanistan (SARA). Uzbekistan and Afghanistan share history and culture, and this groundbreaking group gives him an opportunity to show his virtuosity and particular style.

Kosimov’s fellow percussionist in SARA, tabla virtuoso Salar Nader, calls him “the magician of the doyra.”

No prior player has come close to Kosimov’s modernizations. Inspired by North Indian tabla players, Kosimov worked on his finger tapping technique, perfecting soft and hard strokes, and developing personalized rolls and slaps. He mastered rhythms in different time signatures, 7/8, 11/8 and others.

Abbos Kosimov

In 2008, Kosimov was a guest musician on one of Zakir Hussain’s Masters of Percussion tours in the United States. This is where Salar Nader first heard him, and was amazed to hear such proficiency in so many styles of music from the humble doyra.

Nader was then in the process of forming an ensemble to play Afghan music, and Kosimov seemed an ideal addition. Uzbek and Afghan music are very close. Moreover, Uzbek-Afghans account for over 20% of the country’s population. Kosimov’s talent with North Indian classical music—another important ingredient in Afghan music—was also a great benefit.

Since moving to the United States in 2005, Kosimov has performed with a wide range of renowned musicians.


A Time 2 Love, with Stevie Wonder (Motown, 2005)
Hand’Stan, with Tantana ‎(2006)
Rainbow, with Kronos Quartet, Alim & Fargana Qasimov, and Homayoun Sakhi ‎(Smithsonian Folkways, 2010)
Infinite Rhythm (Audio Telepathy Records, 2012)
A Thousand Thoughts, with Kronos Quartet (Nonesuch, 2014)
Euphonic (Sunanda Records, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Yulduz Usmanova

Yulduz Usmanova

Uzbek singer Yulduz Usmanova was born on December 12, 1963 in Margilan, Uzbekistan. She was a unique phenomenon in the global pop culture of the 1990s. Hailing from a recently established country that for generations was part of the former Soviet Union, she represented a new spirit of freedom, independence and innovation, while also celebrating age-old traditions. To her fans in her homeland of Uzbekistan, Yulduz is the voice of the future. To her European audience she is an icon of authenticity who connects the old to the new the East to the West.

When the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan established its independence in 1991, Yulduz Usmanova suddenly found new opportunities to express her art. Born in the 1960s in a working class family in Namagan, a rural city situated along the ancient silk route which connects Europe to China, Yulduz sang earned her living by working in a silk factory and singing at wedding parties. The Uzbek star, singer Gavhar Rahimova noted her talent and in 1984 provided for Yulduz to study at the music academy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Yulduz’s performances soon attracted huge crowds. Her big break came in 1991 when she performed at the first-ever Voice of Asia festival in Alma Ata, capital of Kazakhstan.

Since then, Yulduz has toured Turkey, South East Asia, Australia as well as Europe. She has performed at several major European festivals like WOMAD (UK), Roskilde (Denmark) and Mundial (The Netherlands) while still regularly entertaining crowds in the home country. Her frequent visits to Western Europe resulted in three albums recorded for an independent German label: “Alma Alma” (1993), “Jannona” (1995) and “Binafscha” (1996), cementing her growing reputation as a powerful singer and an imposing stage performer.

A superstar in her native country – she sold a staggering 5 million units in Uzbekistan, a country of 15 million inhabitants – Yulduz Usmanova represents a newfound pride to her fellow countrymen and women. To the younger generation she is an independent woman who breaks away from the traditional female role in society. To the older generation she represents a proud cultural tradition that has been stifled by years of Soviet colonialism. Almost single-handedly Yulduz has updated Uzbekistan’s folk music and made it accessible to Western audiences.

It’s important for me to live in Uzbekistan,” she says. “That’s where my family lives and that’s where my roots are. I don’t work just for myselfI also work for my country which is still a young country. What I learn over here I can bring back home.”

After having toured Europe frequently, Yulduz Usmanova enjoys a healthy reputation among Western audiences and media alike. Her European fanbase is strong enough to warrant a fanclub (Friends of Yulduz Usmanova, based in The Netherlands) and in 1998 she contributed to the annual Liberation Day festivities in Holland performing on national television her signature tune ‘Dunya’ to an audience that included the Dutch queen Beatrix.

Yulduz Usmanova’s album Yulduz one of her most ambitious. Recorded in Amsterdam over a six month period with Yulduz commuting between the studio and gigs in Central Asia, it captured her unique blend of maqam (the traditional court music of Uzbekistan) and pop. Her regular band and drummer Jeffrey Clemens back Yulduz. The album evokes an Eastern pop atmosphere with the mixture of Western electronics and traditional instruments like tanbur (the Uzbek version of the saz, a Turkish string instrument) and doira (percussion) makes for an exotic though contemporary sound that fits Yulduz’s emotive vocals. Guest appearances by the Family Factory who contribute their choral textures to six tracks further enhance the album’s appeal to an international audience. The Family Factory a South African choir of men and women who have recorded with Hugh Masekela. Their contribution affirms the truly globe-spanning character of Yulduz’s latest recordings. A special version of the album was released in Turkey one of Yulduz’s core-markets.

For her 2004 album Simply Yulduz, Yulduz went to Jamaica the country at the opposite side of the globe from Uzbek point of view and also musically the counterpart of Central Asian music. She worked with one of the greatest guitarists of Jamaica, Ernest Ranglin. The album was produced by Jah Wobble (former Public Image Limited)

Yulduz became an opposition member of parliament in Uzbekistan.


Alma Alma (Blue Flame, 1993)
Jannona (Blue Flame, 1995)
Binafscha (Blue Flame, 1996)
Oqqan daryo oqaveradi (1999)
Yulduz (Double T Music, 1999)
Buncha go’zal bu hayot (2001)
Oshiqlik (2001)
Yoshligim, beboshligim (2002)
Mendan meni so’rama (2003)
О Любви (2003)
Men o’zimni topmasam (2004)
Yondiraman, yonaman (2005)
Ayol (2005)
Биё, Жонам (2005)
Faqat sabr tiladim (2006)
Kerak bo’lsa jonim fido (2007)
O’zbekiston — qanday bo’lsang shunday sevaman (2007)
Inadim (2008)
Dunya (2009)
Sen ham asra, ko’zmunchog’ingman (2009)
Tilimdan emas dilimdan (2010)
Kible Benim Kalbimde (2010)
Bir Şans Ver (2011)


Artist Profiles: Yalla


Yalla is one of the leading popular music groups in the former Soviet central Asian republic of Uzbekistan. The band is from Tashkent the capital of Uzbekistan one of the independent states that came out of the former Soviet Union. The group whose name is an Uzbek word for a song accompanied by dancing has become a popular icon in Uzbekistan frequently serving as cultural ambassadors to international festivals or meetings abroad.

The members of Yalla are graduates of the Ostrovsky Theatrical Art Institute and the Ashrafi State Conservatory in Tashkent. They are not Russian, but Uzbek, a Turkic nationality from the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road. Their music incorporates traditional ethnic folk tunes and poetry of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian and Middle Eastern cultures along with contemporary pop and dance influences into a unique international blend. They perform songs in more than 1 languages including Arabic Farsi Hindi Nepalese and French as well as Uzbek and Russian.

Formed in the early 197s Yalla has appeared on Soviet national television as well as performing in Moscow and elsewhere in the Soviet Union and on concert tours in Europe Africa Asia and Latin America including featured appearances at the “Voice of Asia” festival.

Members of Yalla:

Farrukh Zakirov, artistic director composer vocals; Rustam Iliasov, arranger, vocals, bass, guitar; Abbos Aliyev, arranger, national instruments (tan-buzuk, rubab ud), vocals, keyboards; Javlon Tokhtayev, vocals, guitar; Alishier Tulyaganov, vocals, percussion, national drum instruments (doira, tabla); Ibraghim Aliyev, percussion, national instruments (darbuka, kairok-tosh); Tulkin Isakov, bass, guitar.


Учкудук – Три Колодца – Uchkuduk – Three Wells (1982)
Музыкальная Чайхана – Musical Teahouse (1990)


Artist profiles: Sevara Nazarkhan

Sevara Nazarkhan

Sevara Nazarkhan, an Uzbek singer-songwriter and musician, plays the dutar, a fifteenth century two-stringed Central Asian lute that is plucked, not strummed. When music was the domain of shepherds and lonely wayfarers, the strings were made from animal intestines. As the Silk Route became better established and the dried fruits and animal skins that Marco Polo carried were traded for gems and Chinese porcelain, the strings were woven from silk. The dutar has a warm dulcet tone. In Sevara’s hands combined with her voice, an ancient tradition respires.

Her album Yol Bolsin (Where Are You Going) for Real World is a meeting place between the old and the new. Along the Silk Route, even today, some traditions haven’t faded. Folk songs from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reinforce the popular music of the region.

In Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital Sevara is a pop star. It is not unusual for Sevara a slight striking woman with long dark hair to be stopped on the street by her fans. Her first group in 1998 was a soulful women’s quartet. During this period she also sang in the city’s popular arts cafe Taxi Blues. A year later she released her debut album and established herself as a solo singer.

Despite her choice of western musical forms, her roots are apparent. Sevara’s father, formerly a vocalist of European classical music, headed the traditional music department in Tashkent radio before his retirement. Her mother teaches traditional string instruments and is the director of an extracurricular music school. Sevara studied voice at the Tashkent State Conservatoire where folk music is a rigorously taught musical art.


Yoʻl boʻlsin – Where are you Headed? (Real World, 2003)
Goʻzal dema – Don’t Say I’m Beautiful (2004)
Sen – You (Real World, 2007)
Tortadur – It Attracts (2011)
Maria Magdalena (2012)
Pisma (2013)


Artist Profiles: Matlubeh


Matlubeh is known as the turquoise of Uzbekistan. Her voice has such a large range that she is able to move freely from classical music shahsmaqam to folk music.

Originally from a Tajik village near Samarkand she sings in her native tongue as well as in Uzbek (a language closer to Turkish as opposed to Tajik which is more related to Persian. From the age of four she accompanied her mother who was later to become her first singing coach. “In my family music is in the blood,” she says. “My mother would take her dayera and sing with the accompaniment of her children at all sorts of occasions like wedding ceremonies etc ..). There were ten of us children and my mother hoped with all her heart that one of us would grow up to be a musician. When I was little I listened to the radio and imitated great classical singers. I wrote songs and sang them while we picked cotton. I owe all of my success to my mother and her advice. I think of her words before each concert: “You must sing so that your voice can reach its highest point and give its fullest strength.”

Matlubeh is a good example of how musical transmission operates in the Uzbek tradition. While her mother was a folk music singer in a village Matlubeh went on to become one of the greatest singers of classical and folk music in Uzbekistan. When Uzbek television featured a documentary on her life it did not fail to pay homage to her mother who at that time had already passed away but is considered one of the greatest representatives of the folk tradition.

After five years of music study at the Music University and conservatory of Tashkent the young singer began to perform with The Shashmaqam Ensemble of Radio Uzbekistan. She is now the soloist of this ensemble. When she is complimented on her vocal technique she is quick to praise her professors: “I owe everything to my mentors Aref Khan Haternov and Turgun Alimatov.”

Currently as she continues her engagement with radio she performs and records with Turgun Alimatov one of the last masters of classical music. After a private concert in his garden in Tashkent Turgun Alimatov pointed to Matlubeh and said: “I have tried to give everything I know to this student. She is my hope for the future.”

As a singer originally from the Samarkand and region who lives in Tashkent, Matlubeh sings both the classical and folk music of the two regions.


Turquoise of Samarkand (Long Distance, 1996)
Yar Kelour (Iris Musique, 2000)