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Croon Jewels: Uzbekistan Outlaws 'Adapted' Foreign Tunes

  • RFE/RL

The ban extends to performances on state television or radio, which dominate Uzbek airwaves, as well as official music websites and concert venues.

Authorities in Uzbekistan have forbidden musicians from localizing foreign songs or performing such adaptations, according to sources at the industry's regulatory body, Uzbekkonsert, and in the media.

Uzbekistan has a dubious record of intellectual-copyright enforcement dating back to Soviet days, and performers have routinely covered or adapted foreign tunes with little or no acknowledgement of their origins -- to say nothing of royalties.

The new measure specifically targets adaptions -- rather than cover versions in their original language -- and was unveiled as a way to defend culture and protect the country from works and performances that deceive the audience, the sources told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service.

It extends to performances on state television or radio, which dominate Uzbek airwaves, as well as official music websites and concert venues.

The prohibition appears to be part of an effort to further rein in an industry already subject to heavy state control, following a warning earlier this month that singers would need to get permission from Uzbekkonsert to post their clips on YouTube.

A Tashkent-based entertainment reporter who asked to remain anonymous confirmed that the new ban was announced by an adviser to President Shavkat Mirziyaev at a June 27 meeting with journalists at Uzbekkonsert headquarters in the capital.

The adviser, Khairiddin Sultonov, warned that Uzbek singers may no longer take foreign songs, replace their lyrics, and perform them as originals. He stressed that singers could still perform foreign songs using the original lyrics, the reporter said.

Local singer Bahrom Nazarov blamed the ban for Uzbek television's recent rejection of his remake of an Azerbaijani song.

'Appropriate', Or 'Absurd'?

Remakes of foreign-language songs have reportedly been on the rise across Central Asia. A string of state TV reports and programs have recently "exposed" singers who "deceive the audience" with foreign tunes.

Others have joined the chorus of condemnation.

Zhuraqul Shukurov, an art critic and Uzbek State University professor, said the overreliance on foreign songs risked a "national tragedy" in which Uzbekistan "loses" its own music if the practice is not halted. Shukurov said an overwhelming majority of "Uzbek songs" performed at weddings were adaptations of Turkish or Arabic tunes.

Earlier this month, veteran singer Ghulomjon Yoqubov criticized what he described as the practice of "stealing foreign songs without the authors' permission."

"Today, the performance of Uzbek singers is far from professionalism," composer Dilorom Saidaminova said in praising the ban as "appropriate." "We used to call it 'amateurism' before."

Akmal Rizaev, another Uzbek art critic, criticized the ban as "absurd" and urged the authorities to devote resources to more "important issues in society."

"Our authorities believe that music isn't just entertainment, but it's a tool of education, like mosque sermons," Rizaev said.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service
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