In Uzbekistan quite some years ago MP3-CDs by the great singers of mid last century had been published. These recordings probably have been released originally on LPs by Melodiya, the Sowjet state-owned label. These MP3-CDs contain in general the complete recordings by these artists. As these artists are mostly completely unknown in the west and their songs are such beautiful jewels and these CDs are extremely difficult to get, even in Uzbekistan, we brake here with our habit not to post music from CDs. We will post about one or two of these MP3-CDs per month. We are very very grateful to our dear friend Danny, who brought these CDs a couple of years ago from a trip to Uzbekistan and had to undergo enormous difficulties to collect all these recordings from shops and bazars in several towns in Uzbekistan. He was so kind to let me copy all of them. We have tried since then to find ways to order these CDs but never got any response from the labels. According to the information we could gather they seem no longer available. Other friends who have been in Uzbekistan in the last years were unable to find any or only very few CDs of traditional music.
We start here with two legendary Sufi singers, the brothers Akmal-Khan and Baba-Khan Subhanov. Jean During wrote about them in the booklet to the CD "Ouzbekistan - Les Grandes Voix du Passé (1940-1965)", on which he published three tracks by the brothers, the only ones available in the west:
"THE LAST REPRESENTATIVES OF SUFI TRADITION
Besides these three traditions (the three Maqom traditions existing in Uzbekistan: Shashmaqom of Bukhara, the Maqom of the Ferghana Valley and the Maqom of Khorezm), yet not fundamentally different, existed a huge repertoire of Sufi songs, about which not much is known. Of this repertoire, passed on through initiation by the Yasavi (often also Naqshbandi) whose practising members were to be found a little throughout Central Asia äs far äs the Uigurs of Xin-jiang, Uzbek emigrants and Chinese Hui, only traces remain. Certain hymns like "zikri Ushshaq" were common to the Sufis of Kashgary and Ferghana. But the level of traditional Sufi singing in Namanghan (Ferghana) was not as high as it was in Turkestan. This town (now in the Uzbek region of Kazakhstan) is the site of the tomb of Ahmad Yasavi (l Ith Century).
All Uzbek and Tajik classical music being impregnated with a mystic ethos, to fully understand it, one needs to refer to Sufi values and culture. With the revolution, materialism swept all other creeds aside. After several decades of religious persecution, almost nothing remains of Sufi devotional and musical practices. The vestiges left by the Subhanov brothers are, in the light of this, even more precious: a constant reference for connoisseurs, they represent the consummate perfecting of a spiritual art and ideal.
Subhan Ata was a Sufi singer from Turkestan, first noted by Belaiev and Uspensky, Russian musicologists from 1920 to 1950. His nickname came from the piety of his singing and invocations (subhan: praise). His two sons Akmal-khan and Baba-khan Subhanov perpetuated this spiritual repertoire through a period when any mystical or religious allusion was mercilessly censored.
Turgun Alimatov, the celebrated master, who sometimes accompanied the Subhanov brothers on the violin, recalls them for Theodore Levin in his book "The Hundred Thousand Fools of God", with these words of praise:
«In contrast to other Singers, the Subhanovs performed exclusively songs with a religious content. They were religious people themselves, even during the time when religion was strictly forbidden. People who rejected religion simply didn't associate with them, and for their pari, the Subhanovs stayed away from atheists. They were invited to the houses of believers. «I've been in the Company of very different hafizs [singers], but I've never seen the kind of respect l saw for the Subhanovs. When they appeared in the distance, everyone stood up, and stood to two sides, bowing their heads and putting their hands over their hearts. Why were they so respected?... They conducted themselves nobly. They had very clean souls. Second, what they sang was in a sincere religious style. In contrast to other singers, who only said the words God, religion, etc., they approached these words very attentively and chose the most affective texts. They cornpletely excluded light and worldly texts (...). «Among real, clean artists, I never saw such people. Real artists lived honestly. They had high regard for both their art and their faith. Baba-khan-aka, Shah Karim-aka, they always valued their masters' spirits, their teachers who were deceased. They prayed to their spirits, they always remembered them. They kept in contact with their families and took part in all of their family occasions. And that's the way they raised their children. Look at their children; they're following the path of their parents. «... Baba-khan-aka and Shah Karim-aka were people who were not only clean in the soul, but in their actions. (...) After religion, there's nothing better and more dignified than art»."