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Rock 'N' Roll Is Dead (Wrong) In Uzbekistan

Uzbek musician Davron Goipov: "To say this is satanic music is simply not true."

Rock 'n' roll and rap are examples of "satanic music," created by "evil forces," and are "approaching as dark clouds over the heads of Uzbek youth."

Or so says Uzbek state television, which recently launched a moral campaign against two forms of contemporary music that have been around for decades.

State media in Uzbekistan, the only media permitted in the country, has always been a tightly controlled mouthpiece of the government. But the recent ravings against rock and rap add to the growing evidence that Uzbek media is moving beyond simply providing glowing state-approved versions of events at home and abroad and vilifying those the state calls enemies.

Uzbek media are increasingly telling people, especially the country's youth, how they should behave, what they should wear, and most importantly, who and what to avoid.

The latest example was seen in the documentary film "Melody and Calamity," aired on Uzbek TV's Second Channel.

"This satanic music was created by evil forces to bring youth in Western countries to total moral degradation," the documentary declared.

According to the documentary, rock music "originated from African hunting rituals." Rap was invented by "inmates in prisons," the film said, concluding: "that's why rap singers wear wide and long trousers."

Local Roots

Davron Goipov is an award-winning Uzbek musician who has been playing rock music since the 1980s. He disagrees with the TV program's portrayal of the musical form, which he says has roots that extend to traditional local music.

"Some people should read up on the subject," he says. "To say this is satanic music is simply not true. If we look at rock 'n' roll music, we can hear rhythms familiar from Central Asia. If you listen to [former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie] Blackmore, you can hear our [Central Asian] rhythms."

Goipov says it is possible to hear in some of Pink Floyd's music the rhythm of the shashmaqam -- six modes -- classical music of Central Asia that dates back to the 16th century. But Goipov would have a difficult time getting his views heard on state television these days.

'Whirlpool Of Death'

Considering Uzbekistan's proximity to Afghanistan and the multiplying number of opposition groups in the Central Asian region rallying under the banner of Islam, perhaps it should not be surprising that Uzbek media dedicate programs and articles denouncing and warning about "alien ideas."

The Uzbek radio program "Awareness," discussing religious extremism in early 2008, warned of "alien ideas which do not suit our national ideology" and "develop evil and aggression in a person's character." Uzbek TV aired a program later that year called "Whirlpool Of Death," which described attempts in the eastern city of Andijon to recruit young Uzbek men for militant camps in Pakistan's Waziristan region.

In January 2009, the state newspaper "Halq Sozi" (People's Word) warned women about wearing veils, writing: "Wearing the hijab is nothing other than blindly imitating Arab women. Our women should recognize this, and the sooner the better."

Increasingly, it is not Islamic extremists and Islamic clothing that state media criticize, but Western culture and technology. The same "Halq Sozi" article that urged Uzbek women to forego the veil ended by saying, "Unfortunately, we have been observing girls wearing skirts with a hemline above the knees or revealing clothes showing their navels without being ashamed. This type of dressing style is not only alien to our centuries-old national and spiritual traditions, but also directly harmful to women's health."

It is interesting to note that Uzbek President Islam Karimov's eldest daughter, Gulnara, designs clothing for fashion shows in Europe and, in her incarnation as a musician, releases CDs and videos.

'Disgusting Acts'

State media's admonitions about Western culture go far beyond clothing and music.

"Uzbekistan Ovozi" (Uzbekistan's Voice) wrote in January 2009 that "mass culture is more dangerous than terrorism." The newspaper said that while terrorism could affect the lives of people in a localized area, "mass culture is aimed at carrying out disgusting acts of completely eliminating the identities, images, and values of all nationalities and peoples of the world."

"Halq Sozi" in April 2009 pointed out that "modern ideological and spiritual attacks are dangerous by seeming to be harmless. Attacks of this kind may be carried out just through music, some cartoons, or advertisements."

The newspaper "Inson va Konun" (People and the Law) in May 2010 warned the country's parents about their children's "habits of spending hours having meaningless talks on mobile phones, using frivolous mobile phone services, and listening to meaningless songs or to play computer games day and night."

"Inson va Konun" warned parents that unless they ignored mass culture, they would raise a child "who has no dignity and ideas, or sense of family and motherland in his heart, and will become a marionette that is a tool in the hands of evil forces."

And then there is the great modern threat against all authoritarian states.

Second Channel, which serves as Uzbek TV's youth outlet, cautioned in July that "the Internet has become a tool of evil forces." The specific threat, the channel said on the "Niqob" (Mask) program, in this case was Islamic extremist groups. But broader comments such as "destructive ideas on websites are widely promoted" could just as easily refer to sites in Western countries.