Sevara Nazarkhan – Sen
Im Gebiet der Großen Seidenstraße, zwischen China im Osten und der arabischen Welt im Westen, waren sich selbst begleitende Sängerinnen über Jahrhunderte hinweg ein Inbegriff für höchste musikalische Kultur, wie es etwa alte Manuskripte, Miniaturen oder Wandbilder belegen. SEVARA NAZARKHAN aus dem zentralasiatischen Usbekistan, also aus dem Zentrum der genannten Region, steht einerseits eindeutig in dieser Tradition. Sie spielt die „Doutar”, eine zweisaitige Laute, die gezupft wird. Sie singt im überlieferten Stil des Landes, der, genau wie Melodik und Textinhalt, nach wie vor aktuell ist. Andererseits verbindet sie all dies mit Elementen aus der westlichen Musik, mit sanften Beats, mit elektrifizierten Instrumenten, modernen Sounds, Loops und Samples.
In In ihrer Heimat ist sie damit längst zum absoluten Star avanciert, und auch hierzulande hat sie beste Eindrücke hinterlassen, so z.B. als Gast auf Peter Gabriels „Growing Up“-Tour im Jahre 2003. Auf dessen Real World-Label veröffentlicht sie jetzt (nach „Yol Bolsin“ von 2003) mit „Sen“ ihr zweites Album, ein (auch Cover-optisch) geradezu hinreißendes Dokument der Verschmelzung von Ost und West, von alt und neu, von Tradition und Moderne. Der geneigte Hörer gerät in einen Trance-Zustand, und ein Song wie „Bu Sevgi“ klingt schon fast West-Charts-tauglich.
[ausführliche Informationen in nachfolgendem, englischsprachigem Text]
Central Asia’s Silk Road – legend conjures a centuries-old route to a world of fabulous opulence, architectural treasure and music that has entertained kings at court and villagers in communal celebrations. Music embodied by the image of a lone woman singing and plucking away at an ancient lute; an ethereal beauty with tumbling dark hair and a luminous, otherworldly voice. A woman not unlike Sevara Nazarkhan – if she was around a few hundred years ago, that is. Armed with a healthy respect for tradition and a penchant for sonic experimentation, the pint-sized diva from 21st Century Uzbekistan is doing things her way. Her new album, Sen, takes the Silk Road on a stunning detour.
“I don’t think in terms of contemporary versus traditional or Western versus central Asian,” says Sevara, 31. “I live in all those worlds. I’m lucky: when I feel fed up with modern life I can luxuriate in the beauty of tradition, with the music my folks presented me with. Other days I can indulge myself by playing around with sounds, by having fun experimenting, exploring and sometimes,” she adds with a grin, “even panicking.”
Sen – which means ‘you’ in Uzbek – sees the irrepressible, ever curious artist leaping boldly into contemporary writing and production. This is the album Sevara has always wanted to make: a looping, shimmering, beats-laden gem underscored by traditional instrumentation and, with Uzbek-language lyrics provided by past and present Uzbek poets, sent soaring by her unforgettable voice. With the exception of two long-time favourites, Bakhtimdan (a song of beauty and happiness) and the oft-recorded Uzbeki classic Kuigai (lent an extra dimension here), all the tracks on Sen were composed by Sevara. And all were produced by herself in collaboration with Russian electro-techno wizard Victor Sologub and the West Country’s much-touted Bruno Ellingham.
“I simply love working with a kaleidoscope of musical bits,” she says in her chatty, upbeat way. “That is my ocean to dive into. I choose lyrics very carefully. Uzbek poetry is intoxicating, emotionally-involving. It tends to lose its magic in translation; perhaps you have to be Uzbek to truly comprehend it. But the emotion and feeling are the same.” Oral poetry has particular significance in Uzbekistan. It is the language of both the natural and the spiritual worlds, heavy on metaphor and delightful to the ear. “A flower or a star might represent a lover. A love song may be a hymn to God. It has always been like this: I use excerpts from a 13th Century poem written by the great poet Saadiy (Debochadan), just as I do a poem by the 16-year-old boy who approached me on the Tashkent metro a few years back (Tushim).”
Sevara’s acclaimed 2002 debut Yol Bolsin (‘Where Are You Going’) was a collection of traditional, folk and peasant songs from Uzbekistan, a country that formally broke with the Soviet Union in 1991 and has worked hard to reassert its rich cultural identity ever since. Music is a priority: imbued with echoes of Persian classical music and the meditational Sufi tradition, traditional
Uzbek music takes the form of age-old poetic songs called maqams. Many such maqams are as well-known in Uzbekistan as those of the country’s now booming – and gloriously cheesy – pop industry. Within which, coincidentally, Sevara Nazarkhan happens to be a major player.
“Our youth listen to a lot of traditional music. These are songs they grew up with. We don’t dismiss them as boring as some Western cultures might.” Sevara pauses, sighs. “Traditional music has been tested by time and generations, too,” she offers. “It is always travelling and developing, which in turn pushes me to go further and experiment with other sounds.”
Yol Bolsin, tastefully digitalised by French producer Hector Zazou, focused attention on a little known musical legacy. It also unleashed Sevara Nazarkhan on the world and led her to receive the 2004 BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music/Asia Pacific. Here, remarkably, was a woman who was not only a pop star back home – where her cassettes sold in the street markets of the capital, Tashkent – but a pop star intent on pursuing her own singular path. A daughter of classically-trained musicians and a graduate of the State Conservatoire, majoring in voice and the two-stringed doutar lute. A thoroughly modern artist who cites Bjork and Goldfrapp among her influences, who regularly blows audiences away (including those who saw her on Peter Gabriel’s 2003 tour) with her rock goddess-like charisma.
Sen was created with touring in mind. Onstage, Sevara is a whirl of joyous, co-ordinated movement; her love of live performance is as palpable as her spontaneous, child-like nature. The sort of seize-the-day spirit, in fact, that saw her persuade the famously uncompromising Victor Sologub – late of Soviet post punk outfit Strannye Igry – to come on board and produce. Sologub is now an avowed fan for life. “I love Victor’s mix of craziness and sincerity,” Sevara says. “We met when I watched him recording his album in St Petersburg. I loved his ideas and the way he worked. So I phoned him up and asked him to come to Tashkent to do some programming.”
Sen began as all great albums should: as a bunch of jams. Sevara’s compositions evolved courtesy of a tight-knit band playing everything from twanging tanbur lute and rhythmic doira frame drum to keyboards and bass-guitar. Convinced and intrigued, Sologub visited Sevara’s home studio in downtown Tashkent, in the city’s quieter, non-industrial green belt. “It was days of fierce fighting, lots of arguments and lots of learning for me,” she laughs. “We’d work on the songs. My band would play their lines. Then we’d lunch in a nearby Bukhara café while Victor would swim for an hour in the Soy, the canal that passes a few hundred metres from my home. Then we’d go back to work. There wasn’t much time for fun, though I suspect Victor spent more than a few late evenings in the local nightclubs.”
Everyone then decamped to Real World, where Sologub’s inspired electronic treatments were carefully remoulded by the equally visionary Bruno Ellingham. Where Sevara, determined to pour exactly the right emotion and power into each and every track, re-recorded all of her glorious vocals – including all the backing arrangements – until they did precisely that. “There were never any constraints on me with this album,” she says happily. “No one said ‘we want this’ or ‘we want that’. Everyone at Real World was very supportive – maybe a bit worried, too, I guess.” They needn’t have been. “That freedom helped me create an album that I am very, very proud of.”
Sen: a gorgeous, song-driven album, as melodious as it is danceable, as harmonious as it is edgy. An album that treads both traditional and contemporary paths. Which, for that matter, today’s Silk Road does anyway.
“Is Sen traditional or contemporary?” Sevara Nazarkhan gives a good-natured shrug. “That’s for other people to decide.”
“But either way,” she says, shaking out her long dark hair and flashing a dazzling smile. “Sen is who I am.”
[englischer Text: Jane Cornwell]
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