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Uzbek Singers Are Told: No Tattoos, No Earrings, And No Singing In Bedrooms In Videos

According to the regulations, singers like pop diva Rayhon Ganiyeva will have to make sure their music videos adhere to Uzbekistan's culture and traditions. (file photo)

Uzbek singers can no longer sport a tattoo, show off expensive cars, or sing in a bedroom in music videos -- all part of new rules unveiled by government officials this week.

Male singers shouldn’t dress like women or wear garish jewelry, according to a directive published on the website of Uzbekkonsert, a state body that regulates the Central Asian country's music industry.

Uzbekkonsert says music videos should adhere to Uzbekistan's culture and traditions, promote patriotism and benevolence, and should not insult viewers' feelings.

Those who disobey the regulations will face losing their mandatory license needed to perform.

Under a subheading "Inappropriate Movements,” the document introduces 13 points outlining thing that should not be seen in music clips.

"Showing off" expensive cars and extravagant mansions are now banned in music videos as "unsuitable" dance moves and "revealing" outfits.

The world's most-watched music video, Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, has attracted nearly 5 billion views thus far but wouldn’t have a chance of gaining a license in Uzbekistan under the new rules.

The Puerto Rican performers in Despacito display "tattoos and other body decorations" that are now banned for music groups in Uzbekistan along with "skimpy clothes" worn by the back-up dancers in the popular video.

Pop singer Bruno Mars took home six prestigious Grammys in 2017, including the awards for best song and album of the year.

The U.S. artist's videos, however, wouldn't see the light of day in Uzbekistan if he was based there and applied for a license to produce and release his works.

Fortunately for him and other Western artists, the new Uzbek regulations only apply to native singers and bands.

With his leopard-print shirt, massive gold necklaces, and tattoos, Mars breaks more than one rule in the new book of Uzbek music-video regulations.

'No Drugs, Alcohol, Or Laziness'

The rule book specifically prohibits artists resting on a bed in a "yonbosh" style, an Uzbek word for a half-sitting, half-resting position that men mainly use relaxing at home or in parks while chatting with family and friends, watching TV, or just being lazy.

It is against Uzbek ethical norms, Uzbekkonsert says.

Music clips should not encourage a "lazy lifestyle, shamelessness, and lust," it warns.

Uzbekkonsert also warns artists to make sure their videos do not promote terrorism, illegal drug use, or alcohol abuse.

The agency now bans anything that might incite religious or ethnic animosity, insult holy places, or advertise products.

The "inappropriate and misplaced" use of state symbols -- the national flag, coat of arms, or a photo of the president -- is also banned, although the document does not elaborate on those restrictions.

Uzbekkonsert has in the past warned artists against singing the praises of a sitting president.

In June 2017, the agency announced that dedicating clips to "heads of unethical" and could cost offending artists their license.

Uzbek singer Dilfuza Ismoilova (file photo)
Uzbek singer Dilfuza Ismoilova (file photo)

That move came after artist Dilfuza Saidova released a music video, May The Sultan Of This Beautiful Land Prosper, dedicated to President Shavkat Mirziyoev.

The video, which has since been removed from YouTube, describes Mirziyoev as "the shadow of God on Earth," among other sycophantic praises.

An official at the Culture Ministry told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that Uzbekkonsert has set up a 15-member commission on February 12 to vet music videos in Uzbekistan.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said the new rules are aimed at promoting Uzbek culture and preventing the influence of Western pop styles.

Uzbek musicians and art critics expressed mixed reactions to the new regulations for the music industry.

"Introducing so many restrictions...doesn't lead to anything good," said prominent performer Javohir Zokirov, who belongs to Uzbekistan's well-known music dynasty, the Zokirovs.

The Zokirov clan includes the founder of Uzbek pop music, Botir Zokirov, and the leader of the Yalla folk rock band, Farrukh Zokirov.

Javohir Zokirov points out that his cousin, U.S.-based singer Nargiz Zokirova, "doesn’t want to return to Uzbekistan" after Uzbeks attacked her on social-media for having large tattoos.

"Rejecting Nargiz’s singing talent because of her tattoos is absurd," Javohir Zokirov says.

Singer Aziza Niyazmetova has run afoul of the Uzbek authorities in the past. (file photo)
Singer Aziza Niyazmetova has run afoul of the Uzbek authorities in the past. (file photo)

Uzbek art critic Akmal Rizaev says the new rules have some important aspects.

"It prevents the glamorization of drugs and alcohol in music videos," Rizaev says. "I also support the ban on the misplaced use of state symbols."

"Dilfuza Ismoilova’s video was an example of sycophancy," he adds. "Such paeans should indeed be banned by law.”

In any event, Uzbek singers have been used to draconian restrictions for many years.

In 2016, pop singer Aziza Niyazmetova was issued an official warning over a "shameless" choice of wardrobe after she posted a photo showing her in a sleeveless dress.