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  • Rashid

Uzbek music of the 90s, part II

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

The original post on plovism about some of the forgotten gems of the 90s Uzbek music scene sparked a lot of interest. Here is a logical continuation. This is not an accurate or comprehensive account. This is a brief overview based on my own childhood memories. Enjoy, explore, and make suggestions.

Straight away it must be noted that Uzbek pop music is unimaginable without one man - Ruslan Sharipov - a genius who created so much in such a short life journey [1966-2020].

A Samarqand native, Sahripov was a founder of such legendary groups as Bolalar and Setora featured in the original post. He composed dozens of highly successful songs for various artists and had a brief but popular solo and duet career. Just listen to this melody he composed. Many would never have guessed that it was written by Ruslan Sharipov and played on an Uzbek national instrument.

As we will learn throughout this read, there is a lot of drama, politics and sometimes even tragedy involved in the Uzbek music scene. Not going to add any fuel to the fire here, but will mention that Sharipov was the first husband of another megastar - Nargiz Zakirova - from the legendary musical clan of Zakirovs. You may know her by this epic appearance in the Russian "Voice" when she outsang Klaus Meine of Scorpions.

Among some of the most influential duet works of Sharipov is the song "Nozanin" sung with another (albeit controversial) superstar Yulduz Usmonova.

Usmonova was once a favourite singer of the country's first president, Islam Karimov (he will appear again below). Then, having voiced some unpopular opinions on the way the country was headed in terms of development, she was exiled to Turkey, but with a subsequent re-entry to the domestic music scene after some years. Upon her return, she made some controversial political and cultural statements that I personally do not support (such as that men should not wear beards, for instance), but l must admit that she is an incredible singer who made a huge influence on the music scene in and beyond Uzbekistan.

I saw her perform live (albeit lip-syncing, it was epic) in 2000 in a full stadium in Namangan. Here is a patriotic song "We will not give you to anyone, Uzbekistan" that came out just at the right time as the country's independence and nation-building were challenged by various political and religious forces. It was a soundtrack of life itself for a while.

Moving on with our exploration and nostalgia. I wonder if someone out there will recognise this little number? "Nexia, Tico, Damas" - a tribute to domestic car manufacturing. In the 1990s Karimov signed a deal with Koren Daewoo and UzDaewooAuto started making cars for the masses - truly a revolution. Nexia was considered a luxurious business car, tiny Tico (the size of a vacuum cleaner, really) was a car for the youth and Damas was to become a family mini-van style vehicle, but quickly became a unit of public transportation - a marshrutka. Now taken over by Chevrolet, the manufacturer assembles many more models, a lot of which are exported to neighbouring countries. In fact, due to high tariffs imposed to protect the local producer, seeing an imported car on the roads of Uzbekistan is still an occasion. Only the super-rich can afford to import. All while Nexia, Tico and Damas are still cruising around, after all these years.

Qudrat Khakimov sang his anthem to the domestic vehicles and rumours had it received all three types from Karimov himself! Oh, the Uzbek rumours... Let's give it a listen.

Since we are on the subject of sentiments, I must draw your attention to the soundtrack song of a cult TV series "Shaytanat" (Satan). Azim Mullahonov's ballade would make the toughest men in the choykhona weep.

Ok, now back to the pop scene. One of the most influential singers of the 1990s is a person whose voice almost suspiciously resembles that of Tohir Sodiqov - Ravshan Sobirov. Just read the comments beneath this video. People are nostalgic for their youth, for hot Tashkent summers, swimming in the urban lakes in the parks, eating ice cream, dating, and being young and awesome. Tashkent of those days was truly a magical place. Perhaps, because we were younger, or maybe because it was greener, more diverse and...anyhow. Check it out:

I must list a feat between Sobirov and Setora, the legendary "Goodbye high school" song which indeed became an anthem of all graduating ceremonies in the country.

At the threshold of the 1990s and 2000s came a band called Dado, comprised of two brothers - Madumarovs. To say that the band became popular across and beyond Uzbekistan is to say nothing. They were gathering stadiums. Singing in Uzbek, Russian, Tajik and English, mixing styles and constantly experimenting. Dado felt both like something sent from Mars and so damn homey at the same time.

As is too often the case in the Uzbek artistic scene, there were some dramatic events involved in the fate of Dado. One of the brothers was apparently a live-in boyfriend of Gulnara Karimova - the infamous daughter of Islam Karimov. The sweethearts received lengthy prison sentences under accusations of money laundering schemes. Noteworthy is that Gulnara Karimova had a music career herself under the stage name Googoosha. But then again, what type of career did she not have?

The Uzbek pop scene of the 1990s/2000s is also not imaginable without DJ Piligrim (real name Ilkhom Yulchiev, born in 1976 in Tashkent). Again, success and drama go together in this case, finding any details or confirming/debunking the existing "facts" is nearly impossible at this point. Evidently, an ex-husband of one of the members of Setora. Apparently, once was in exile in Moscow over his criticism of the education system in Uzbekistan. Yet welcomed back and embraced, especially with such songs as this tribute to green tea. Check it out.

Not sure this is his authentic website, but for more info click here.

Now, when talking about the 90s Uzbek music scene, we must not neglect such "monsters" as Kumush Razzoqova, Nasiba Abdullayeva or Sherali Jo'rayev. But they are so big that would require a separate blog post.

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